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Have you got a pterygium or pinguecula?

They might sound unusual, but pterygium and pinguecula are quite common eye conditions – particularly with the bright sun we get in Queensland.

A pterygium (pronounced ter-ig-e-um) is the growth of tissue found growing from the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye) across the cornea (the clear part of the eye). They can occur from either side of the eye but typically from the nasal side.

Pterygium are usually pink or red in colour due to the tissue and blood vessels. Pterygium are commonly confused with pinguecula, which are also believed to have a similar cause. These are a small, yellowish raised bump on the white part of the eye.

Causes of pterygium or pinguecula

Both pterygium and pinguecula are associated with ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Those of us who have spent plenty of time outdoors, like farmers or surfers, are more at risk. However, they can happen to anyone, especially in a sunny climate like Queensland.

Signs and symptoms

Pterygium and pinguecula are benign and harmless, and not to be confused with a cancerous growth. You should, however, still have them inspected and monitored to make sure it is not anything more serious. They can however cause discomfort and pain, with some cases causing distortions to the eye over time. This can cause blurred vision or a reduction in sharpness of your vision. If it continues to grow, it can eventually block out vision through the pupil.

Furthermore, pterygium or pinguecula can become raised and bumpy which cause a gritty, dry or irritated feeling. Sometimes the eye can become redder too, usually in cases where there has been excessive exposure to sunlight, wind, or dry conditions. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will be able to provide you with suggestions and treatments available for reducing your symptoms.

Prevention and treatment

The best treatment for these conditions is prevention. It’s important to always have the appropriate sun protection when outdoors. This includes using a wide-brimmed hat and a good pair of wraparound sunglasses, as well as applying sunscreen each morning before you go out and reapplying when needed. This helps to protect you from the elements and reduce the likelihood of the condition worsening. If required, pterygium can be surgically. This would include if they are large, cause significant visual impairment, and irritation.

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