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Pinguecula

A pingueculum is a common, noncancerous growth of the conjunctiva. This is the clear, thin tissue that covers the white part of the eye (sclera). The growth occurs in the part of the conjunctiva that is exposed when the eye is open.

Causes

The exact cause is unknown. Long-term sunlight exposure and eye irritation may be factors. Arc-welding is a major job-related risk.

Symptoms

A pingueculum looks like a small, yellowish bump on the conjunctiva near the cornea. It can appear on either side of the cornea. However, it more often occurs on the nose (nasal) side. The growth may increase in size over many years.

Exams and Tests

An eye exam is often enough to diagnose this disorder.

Treatment

The only treatment needed in most cases is the use of lubricating eye drops. Keeping the eye moist with artificial tears may help prevent the area from becoming inflamed. Temporary use of mild steroid eye drops can also be helpful. Rarely, the growth may need to be removed for comfort or for cosmetic reasons.

Outlook (Prognosis)

This condition is noncancerous (benign) and the outlook is good.

Possible Complications

The pingueculum may grow over the cornea and block vision. When this happens, the growth is called a pterygium. These two conditions occur under similar conditions. However, they are thought to be separate diseases.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if the pingueculum changes in size, shape, or color, or if you would like to have it removed.

Prevention

Things you can do that may help prevent a pingueculum or keep the problem from getting worse include:

  • Keeping the eye well lubricated with artificial tears
  • Wearing good quality sunglasses
  • Avoiding eye irritants

References

Reidy JJ. Corneal and conjunctival degenerations. In: Mannis MJ, Holland EJ, eds. Cornea. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 74.

Shtein RM, Sugar A. Pterygium and conjunctival degenerations. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.9.

Yanoff M, Cameron JD. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 423.

    • Eye anatomy

      Eye anatomy - illustration

      The cornea is the clear layer covering the front of the eye. The cornea works with the lens of the eye to focus images on the retina.

      Eye anatomy

      illustration

      • Eye anatomy

        Eye anatomy - illustration

        The cornea is the clear layer covering the front of the eye. The cornea works with the lens of the eye to focus images on the retina.

        Eye anatomy

        illustration

      Review Date: 9/30/2018

      Reviewed By: Audrey Tai, DO, MS, Assistant Clinical Professor (Voluntary), University of California - Irvine, Irvine, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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