Pterygium & Pinguecula Surgery
What is Pterygium?
A pterygium is a slightly raised, wedge-shaped growth of conjunctiva (the surface tissue of the white of the eye) that extends onto the cornea. Pterygia are benign (noncancerous) lesions that can be found on either side of the cornea. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light (UV light) contributes to the formation of pterygia. Pterygia are more often seen in people from southern or tropical climates (thus also known as surfer’s eye), but they can also be found in others such as people who spend a lot of time in the sun. Like sun damage to skin, pterygia often take many years of cumulative sun exposure to develop and do not come on instantly. The painless growth may contain obvious blood vessels. A pterygium may cause irritation and possibly affect vision. In severe cases, treatment may include eye drops or surgery.
What is Pinguecula?
A pinguecula is a yellowish or very light brown, slightly raised lesion that forms on the surface tissue of the white part of your eye (sclera) close to the edge of the cornea. Pingueculae are typically found in the open space between your eyelids which also happens to be the area exposed to the sun. While pingueculae more commonly occur in middle-aged or older people who spend significant amounts of time in the sun, they can also be found in younger people and even children — especially those who spend a lot of time in the sun without protection such as sunglasses or hats.
Pinguecula and Pterygium Symptoms
Pterygia and pingueculae are often asymptomatic, and many cases do not require immediate treatment from eye doctors. However, both conditions can become red and inflamed from time to time. Large or thick pterygia and pingueculae may bother some people due to a persistent foreign body sensation in the eye. As a pterygium progresses, it can begin to affect the curvature of your cornea and in turn, lead to blurry vision.
What Causes Pterygium and Pinguecula?
The exact cause isn’t known, but one explanation is that too much exposure to UV light can lead to these growths. Those who live in warm climates and spend a lot of time outdoors in sunny or windy environments and are exposed to certain elements on a regular basis have a higher risk of developing these conditions.
Pinguecula and Pterygium Treatment
When you are in need of treatment for your pterygium or pinguecula, you can count on the experienced eye surgeons at Cavanaugh Eye Center in Kansas City. We can provide you with proper surgical removal of the irritant or other types of treatment that may be beneficial to your situation. Schedule a consultation with one of our eye doctors today!
Treatment depends largely on the size and extent of the pterygium, as well as its tendency for recurrent inflammation. Evaluation by Dr. Cavanaugh or Dr. Jaynes will help determine the most optimal treatment in each case. If a pterygium is small but becomes intermittently inflamed, your eye doctor may recommend a trial of a mild steroid eye drop during acute inflammatory flares. In some cases, surgical removal of the tissue may be recommended.
The recommendation for removal will likely be advised if the pterygium is growing far enough onto the cornea to threaten your line of vision. A pterygium may also require surgical removal if it causes a persistent foreign body sensation in the eye, or if it is constantly inflamed and irritating. In addition, some pterygia grow onto the cornea in such a way that they can pull on the surface of the cornea and change the refractive properties of the eye, causing astigmatism. Removing the pterygium may decrease astigmatism.
The removal may take place in a procedure room or operating room setting. The pterygium is carefully dissected away. In order to prevent regrowth of the pterygium, your eye surgeon may remove some of the surface tissue of the same eye (conjunctiva) and suture it into the bed of the excised pterygium. Also, an anti-metabolite such as Mitomycin-C may be applied to the site. Postoperatively, your eye doctor may recommend some steroid eye drops for several weeks to decrease the inflammation and prevent regrowth of the pterygium.
Pinguecula treatment depends on the severity of symptoms. Everyone with pingueculae can benefit from sun protection for their eyes when spending time outdoors. Lubricating eye drops may be prescribed for those with mild pingueculitis to relieve dry eye irritation and foreign-body sensation. However, steroid eye drops or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be required to relieve significant inflammation and swelling.
Surgical removal of the pinguecula may be considered in severe cases where there is interference with vision, contact lens wear, or blinking. Frequently, pingueculae can lead to the formation of pterygia.
Contact Our Expert Eye Doctors
If you have developed pterygium/pinguecula, it is important that you have your eyes examined by an eye doctor as soon as possible. Dr. Cavanaugh, Dr. Jaynes, and the Cavanaugh Eye Center staff have the experience you want in your eye care team — we can recommend the best course of treatment for your situation. Schedule a consultation with one of our eye surgeons today!