Pterygium and Pinguecula: Problems with Sun Exposure

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Pterygium and Pinguecula: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

In Texas, getting enough sun typically isn’t an issue for most people. But all that outside time can come with a price. Over years, it is thought that ultraviolet-light exposure (sunlight) along with low humidity and particulate matter in the air (dust, debris) can result in a benign growth on the conjunctiva of the eye. We call this growth a pterygium or a pinguecula.

Both of these entities are similar in that they represent new growth of benign tissue. A pterygium is characterized by the tissue growing onto the clear cornea, while a pinguecula does not spread out to this degree. A pinguecula stays over the white of the eye.

Prevention: Since these conditions are associated with sun or wind exposure, wearing protective sunglasses and/ or wide-brimmed hats when outdoors may prevent their formation or future growth.

Symptoms: These new growths can disrupt the tear film on the surface of the eye, leading to dry eye symptoms such as a foreign body sensation, itchiness or scratchiness of the eyes, tearing, and general irritation. If a pterygium grows to be large, it can create astigmatism which can affect your vision. In advanced cases, sometimes a pterygium can grow over the center of the vision which can cause scarring leading to a loss of vision.

Treatment: Many options exist to treat these conditions. Treatment initially is typically aimed at minimizing any associated symptoms of irritation, and this is done with artificial tears. If the pterygium begins to affect the vision or is cosmetically unacceptable, then surgical removal can be performed. There are a variety of surgical procedures that exist to remove a pterygium. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the pterygium does not grow back again in the future. One of the newest and most successful procedures performed is to remove the pterygium and to transplant a piece of your own conjunctival tissue (conjunctival autograft) into the area that the pterygium used to occupy. The graft can be secured with sutures or with tissue glue. There are also medicines that are used to discourage new growth, that can be applied to the eye at the time of the surgery. Using one or even a combination of these methods can yield very good results with minimal chance of regrowth. At the Tylock-George Eye Care and Laser Center, we have the ability to employ all of these discussed methods and can tailor your treatment to suit you best to give you the best possible outcome.