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Pinguecula and Pterygium

By Melvin I. Roat, MD, FACS, Clinical Associate Professor, Wills Eye Institute, Department of Ophthalmology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University

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Pinguecula and pterygium are fleshy growths on the conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white of the eye). A pinguecula does not overlap the cornea (the clear layer in front of the iris and pupil), but a pterygium does.

A pinguecula is a raised yellowish white growth next to, but not overlapping, the cornea. This growth can be unsightly, but it typically does not cause any significant problems and does not need to be removed.

An Inside Look at the Eye

A pterygium is a fleshy growth of the conjunctiva that spreads across onto the cornea. Most pterygia do not cause symptoms, but sometimes they cause irritation or distort the shape of the cornea, possibly causing a decrease in vision.

To relieve symptoms caused by a pterygium, doctors may prescribe artificial tears or a short period of treatment with corticosteroid drops or ointments. If the symptoms do not lessen, particularly if vision is affected, or they return frequently, the pterygium may be removed surgically.

Pinguecula and Pterygium

A pinguecula (left) is a growth next to the cornea. A pterygium (right) is a growth of the conjunctiva next to the cornea that spreads across on to the cornea. A ptergyium may affect vision.

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