Pinguecula and pterygium are two types of eye growths that are found on the surface of the white part of the eye. These two “bumps” on the eye are commonly confused. Both are benign, but in extreme cases, pterygium growths can cover the cornea and interfere with vision.
The most common bump found on the eye is the fleshy, slightly raised pinguecula growth. Pingueculae may be whitish, yellow, or slightly gray in color. They grow on the mucous membrane that lines the eyeball and eyelids and are usually found in the white space of the eye closest to the nose.
The less common type of eye bump is the pterygium growth. These are wing-shaped growths on the white part of the eye that also extend to the surface of the cornea. Typically, pterygium growths pose more of a serious cosmetic concern than pinguecula growths.
Pinguecula and pterygium growths are non-cancerous and cause few symptoms other than cosmetic concerns. When these growths become irritated, they can swell and produce the sensation of something stuck in the eye. Because pterygium growths can eventually cover the cornea, there is a slight risk that the cornea can become distorted or stretched, causing astigmatism.
The exact cause of pinguecula and pterygium eye growths is unknown. Exposure to UV light and eye irritation both seem to play a role in the development of these eye growths. People who spend a lot of time in the sun and warm, windy climates have a higher risk of developing pinguecula and pterygium eye growths.
Pinguecula and pterygium eye growths generally do not require treatment. Some of the irritation and swelling associated with these growths can be managed with eye drops.
People with pinguecula and pterygium eye growths should make sure to wear sunglasses when outside to help prevent further irritation of the eyes. In situations where these growths become extremely large or start to interfere with vision, it may be necessary to surgically remove them.