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Pingueculae & Pterygia

Pingueculae and Pterygia are both benign growths that develop on the surface of the eye. While often grouped together, there are some differences in expression, symptoms, causes and treatment so here is an explanation of each condition and the differences between them.

Pinguecula

Pingueculae (pinguecula in singular) are growths that occur on the conjunctiva or the thin clear layer that covers the white part of the eye known as the sclera. They can be diagnosed on patients of any age, but tend to be more common in middle age. Pingueculae are typically yellowish in color and appear as a small, raised, sometimes triangular protrusion close to the cornea.

Causes of Pinguecula

Pinguecula occur when bumps, typically containing fat and/or calcium, form on the tissue of the conjunctiva. The exact cause of pinguecula is not known but there is a correlation between unprotected exposure to sunlight, wind, excessive dryness and dust.

Symptoms of Pinguecula

Pingueculae may have no symptoms or they can cause feelings of dryness, irritation or feeling like there is a foreign body in your eye. In more severe cases they may become itchy, inflamed, red and sore.

Treatment of Pinguecula

Often, there is no treatment necessary other than to protect the eye from the sun and other elements. If however, the pinguecula is causing discomfort or other issues, there are treatments available depending on the symptoms. Dryness, irritation and itchiness can sometimes be treated with eye drops or ointment and in cases where there is swelling, steroid eye drops along with anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed. In rare cases that the pinguecula is causing serious problems such as vision problems, untreatable discomfort or preventing blinking, or the patient is unhappy with the way it looks, it may have to be removed surgically.

Pytergia

Pytergia (pytergium in singular) are wedge-shaped growths on the surface of the cornea (the sclera), made of fibrous conjunctival tissue and containing blood vessels, which sometimes make it appear pink. Pytergia often grow out of pinguecula and tend to be more visible.

Causes of Pytergia

Like pinguecula, pytergia are believed to be caused by extended exposure to UV rays from the sun and are sometimes called “surfer’s eye”. They are more common in adults (ages 20 – 50) who live in dry, sunny climates and spend significant time outdoors. Risks increase in those who do not properly protect their eyes by using sunglasses and hats when they are outdoors.

Symptoms of Pytergia

Pytergia may occur in one or both eyes and usually grow in the corner of the eye closest to the nose in toward the cornea. Very often there are no symptoms however some people may experience dry eyes, redness, irritation, the feeling that something is in their eye and inflammation. Pytergia may also cause discomfort for contact lense wearers. If the pytergium is serious it could grow far enough into the cornea to obstruct vision or cause the cornea to change shape resulting in astigmatism.

Treatment for Pytergia

If necessary, treatment for symptoms of pytergia may be similar to those used for pytergia such as lubricating eye drops or steroidal drops or creams to reduce inflammation. Surgery is more common for pytergia because of the more obvious change in appearance and because of the potential for vision disturbances. Sometimes a conjunctival graft is performed to prevent recurrence which is when a small piece of tissue is grafted onto the area where the pytergia was removed.

Pytergia and pingueculae are often completely benign conditions but should be monitored by a doctor to ensure they do not get worse and pose a threat to vision. Nevertheless, these growths go to show how important it is to protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun.

PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITY

We have been working very hard to prepare to re-open for normal "routine" preventive eye care, taking every precaution to ensure the safety of everyone involved. We are pleased to announce as of Monday May 18th we'll be seeing patients for all types of eye care, including routine annual eye exams.

But, things will be very different than they were prior to the pandemic.

1. Our front door will be locked at all times. We will be allowing only 1 person at a time in the office and by appointment only, so please enter alone, or with no more than l other person accompanying you. Others may wait in the car.

2. Masks will be required for both patients and us while in our office.

3. Upon entering, we will be checking your temperature and screen you for COVID symptoms or possible exposure. If your temperature is 100 F or higher, or you have symptoms or may have recently been exposed to COVID, we will reschedule you.

4. We will need you to respect the 6 feet personal distancing while outside the exam room

5. We will have you wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer when you enter. We will be using hand washing and hand sanitizer constantly and will be disinfecting everything you and we touch. Please don't touch anything that isn't absolutely necessary.

6. For frame selection or picking out glasses, please let us help you, and don't just browse and try on frames by yourself. We have to disinfect the frames every time they are touched or worn, and we need to know which frames need to be disinfected.

We are doing all these things to protect you and all of our other patients as best we can. We will need and depend on your cooperation on this during this very difficult time. Doing so will protect your fellow patients-many of whom are at extremely high risk if they contract COVID - and to protect us. All healthcare providers are putting themselves in harm's way every day during this pandemic - the more we all cooperate and take appropriate precautions, the better off we all will be.

We are all in this together. Thank you for your patience, understanding, and cooperation.

Please stay safe.

Dr. Jim Hutchins and staff