A pinguecula is a benign, or noncancerous, growth that develops on your eye. These growths are called pingueculae when there are more than one. These growths occur on the conjunctiva, the thin layer of tissue that covers the white part of your eye.
Pingueculae are visible where the conjunctiva meets the clear cornea (an anatomic landmark called the limbus).
You can get pingueculae at any age, but they’re mainly found in middle-aged and older people. These growths rarely need to be removed, and no treatment is necessary in most cases.
A pinguecula is yellowish in color and typically has a triangular shape. It’s a small raised patch that grows close to your cornea. Your cornea is the transparent layer that lies over your pupil and iris. Your iris is the colored part of your eye.
Pingueculae are more common on the side of your cornea closer to your nose, but they can also grow next to your cornea on the other side.
Some pingueculae can become large, but this occurs at a very slow rate and is rare.
A pinguecula forms when the tissue in your conjunctiva changes and creates a small bump. Some of these bumps contain fat, calcium, or both.
The change is due to lifelong sun exposure, leading to a degeneration of the abundant elastin fibers within the conjunctival tissue. Think of taught rubber bands that degrade and snap. The change in tissue is linked to frequent exposure to dust or wind.
Pingueculae also tend to become more common as people get older.
A pinguecula can make your eye feel irritated or dry. It can also feel like you have something in your eye, such as sand or other rough particles. The affected eye can itch or become red and inflamed. These symptoms of pinguecula can be mild or severe.
An optometrist, or eye doctor, should be able to diagnose this condition based on the pinguecula’s appearance and location.
Pingueculae and pterygia are growths that form on your eye. The singular term for pterygia is pterygium. These two conditions share a few similarities, but there are also notable differences.
Pingueculae and pterygia are benign and grow near the cornea. They’re linked to exposure to the sun, wind, and other harsh elements.
However, pterygia don’t look like pinguecula. Pterygia come in different colors, including red, white, yellow, or gray. They are round, oval, or elongated.
Pterygia are more likely to grow over the cornea than pingueculae. A former pinguecula that grows onto the corneal surface has now become a pterygium.
You usually don’t need treatment for a pinguecula unless it causes discomfort. If your eye does hurt, a doctor can give you eye ointment or drops to relieve redness and irritation.
You can talk with a doctor about having the pinguecula surgically removed if its appearance bothers you. In some cases, the growth might need to be removed. Surgery is considered when a pinguecula:
- grows over your cornea, as this can affect your vision
- causes extreme discomfort when you try to wear contact lenses
- is constantly and severely inflamed, even after you apply eye drops or ointments
A pinguecula usually doesn’t cause any problems. Surgery typically doesn’t lead to complications, although pingueculae can grow back afterward. Your doctor might give you medication or use surface radiation to help prevent this.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors due to work or hobbies, you’re more likely to develop pingueculae. But wearing sunglasses when you’re outside can help prevent these growths.
You should wear sunglasses that have a coating that blocks the sun’s ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Sunglasses also help protect your eyes from wind and other outdoor elements, such as sand.
Keeping your eyes moisturized with artificial tears might also help prevent pingueculae. You should also wear protective eyewear when working in a dry and dusty environment.