Pinguecula is a yellowish, slightly raised conjunctival thickening on the white part of the eye (sclera), which is close to the edge of the cornea.
Pingueculae are benign bumps on the eyeball and usually appear above the center of the sclera—the part that sits between your eyelids and is therefore exposed to the sun.
Usually pingueculae appear on the surface of the sclera closer to the nose, but can appear on the outer sclera (closer to the ear) as well.
What causes pinguecula?
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the main cause of pinguecula (plural: pingueculae). But eyes that are often exposed to dust and air are also at risk. Dry eye disease is also a driving factor and can support the growth of pingueculae.
Pingueculae are most common in older people who spend a lot of time in the sun. But this condition can also appear in young people and even children—especially those who are often outdoors without wearing sunglasses or hats to protect their eyes from exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
To reduce the risk of getting pinguecula, it is important to wear sunglasses outdoors even if the sky is overcast and overcast, because UV rays from the sun can penetrate cloud cover. For the best protection, choose sunglasses with wraparound frames, which block more sunlight than regular frames.
Pinguecula signs and symptoms
In most people, pingueculae do not cause many symptoms. But if symptoms appear, they usually come from disruption of the tear film.
Because a pinguecula is a raised bump on the eyeball, the natural tear film may not spread evenly over the surrounding surface of the eye, causing dry eyes. This condition can trigger dry eye symptoms, such as a burning sensation, stinging eyes, itchy eyes, blurred vision, and a foreign body sensation.
Another symptom of pingueculae is the appearance of additional blood vessels in the conjunctiva that cover the sclera, causing red eyes.
In some cases, pingueculae can become swollen and inflamed. This condition is called pingueculitis. The irritation and red eyes from pingueculitis usually result from overexposure to sunlight, air, dust, or extremely dry conditions.
It’s sometimes difficult for people to tell the difference between pingueculae and a bump on the eye called a pterygium, but the two are different conditions. Learn more about what a pterygium is.
Treatment of pingueculae
Treatment for pinguecula depends on how severe the symptoms are. It is important for anyone with pingueculae to protect their eyes from the sun because it is the sun’s harmful UV rays that cause these bumps to appear.
To reduce your risk of getting pingueculae, protect your eyes from the sun when you’re outside during the day (even if the sky is overcast because UV exposure from the sun can penetrate clouds).
Consider purchasing photochromic lenses, which darken automatically in sunlight and provide 100% UV protection. Photochromic lenses also protect your eyes from harmful high-energy blue light. Ask for more details with your professional eye care expert.
If the pinguecula is mild but accompanied by dry eye irritation or a foreign body sensation, lubricating eye drops may be prescribed to relieve the symptoms. Scleral contact lenses are sometimes prescribed to cover the lump, thereby protecting it from the effects of drying conditions or possibly from further UV exposure.
Pingueculae can also cause local inflammation and swelling which sometimes must be treated with steroid eye drops or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If dry eyes are causing the pinguecula, eye drops formulated to treat dry eyes may also be prescribed.
Surgical removal of the pinguecula may be considered if the condition makes it more uncomfortable, or interferes with wearing contact lenses or the blinking of the eye, or is cosmetically impairing.
Finally, even if pinguecula is benign, you should report any change in size, shape, or color of the lump in your eye to your eye care professional.