Eye Growths - Pinguecula and Pterygium
Pingueculae and pterygiums are common eye growths which are usually benign. While not completely understood, it is believed that these growths are caused by exposure to UV rays, and that people who are out in the sun for prolonged periods with no eye protection have the highest risk of developing them. The growths are more commonly seen in older people, but can occur in children as well, especially those who spend a lot of time outdoors. Pingueculae and pterygiums may also be caused by exposure to environmental irritants, such as dust and wind.
Appearance: a yellowish raised bump on the white (sclera) of the eye, usually on the side of the eye closest to the nose.
Symptoms: rarely causes symptoms but can occasionally become inflamed, resulting in redness, dry eye, irritation, and/or a foreign body sensation.
Diagnosis: can often be seen with the naked eye, but the doctor will examine the eye with a slit lamp microscope to confirm the diagnosis.
Appearance: a wing-shaped fibrovascular growth (fibrous tissue with blood vessels), usually located in the sclera (white) of the eye, but can grow into the cornea (clear outer surface).
Symptoms: the main symptom is usually cosmetic: a visible raised, white film that looks to be growing over the eye. Occasionally it may become red and swollen, or large and thick, creating a foreign body sensation. If a pterygium grows into the cornea, distorted vision can result from astigmatism.
Diagnosis: usually diagnosed with just a visual examination of the eye, with no special equipment necessary.
Since these growths are usually harmless, treatment is generally very conservative. Eye drops can provide lubrication and relieve some symptoms. If there is significant inflammation and swelling, steroidal or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed. If the growth is large enough to interfere with vision, blinking, or contact lenses, surgical removal may be considered, however there is a strong possibility of recurrence after surgery.
Surgery can be performed by your eye doctor's office or in an operating room. It is typically an outpatient procedure, with topical anesthetic applied to the eye. During the procedure, and eye speculum will hold your eye open while the growth is removed. Surgery does not take very long, often only a half-hour or less. You should be able to return to normal activities the day after surgery, however an eye patch should be worn for the first couple of days of recovery.
To prevent the growth from recurring, the surgeon may place a piece of surface eye tissue onto the affected area using glue or sutures. An antimetabolic drug may also be applied topically to slow tissue growth. Anti-inflammatory eye drops may be used in the weeks following surgery, to reduce swelling.
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