Pinguecula and Pterygium

What is a pinguecula and a pterygium (surfer’s eye or farmer’s eye)?

Pinguecula (pronounced pin- GWEK-yoo-la) is a yellowish fleshy tissue like a patch or a bump which looks growing on the white part of your eye.

Pterygium (pronounced tur-IJ-ee-um) (also known as surfer’s eye or farmer’s eye) is a triangular-shaped fleshy tissue which looks growing on the colored part of your eye.

Both growths are noncancerous and are fairly common. They may remain small or grow large enough to interfere with vision. A pterygium can often develop from a pinguecula.

Some pterygia may become red and swollen on occasion, and some may become large or thick, making you feel like you have something in your eye. If a pterygium is large enough, it can actually lead to a gradual deterioration in your vision.

What are the risk factors of pinguecula and pterygium?

It is not entirely clear what causes pterygia and pingueculae to develop. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is believed to be a factor in the development of these growths. Other factors believed to cause pterygia and pingueculae are dry eye and environmental elements such as wind and dust.

How can pinguecula and pterygium be treated?

  • Pterygia and pingueculae generally don’t require treatment until symptoms are severe enough.
  • When pingueculae or pterygium become red and irritated, lubricating eyedrops or ointments or possibly a mild steroid eye drop may be used to help reduce inflammation.
  • If these growths become large enough to threaten sight or cause persistent discomfort, they can be removed surgically by an eye surgeon in an outpatient procedure. They are also sometimes removed for cosmetic reasons. Despite proper surgical removal, pterygium may return. In fact, the recurrence rate is between 30 and 40 percent, and is more likely among people under age 40.