Pterygium and Pinguecula: The Common Eye Conditions

Pterygium and Pinguecula might sound unfamiliar but are the two most common eye conditions affecting millions of people every year. Also referred to as surfer’s eyes are two distinct, yet similar conjunctiva growths. When one studies pterygium vs. pinguecula, he/she will find that both these conditions are caused by exposure from wind, dust, sand, and UV exposure. The good news is both eye conditions are not dangerous. It demands proper care to protect the eyes or they will recur.

What is a surfer’s eye?

It is the terminology that is used to denote two different, yet similar growths (Pterygium and Pinguecula) on the conjunctiva. A pterygium is fleshy in texture and appears like a skin growth. On the other hand, a pinguecula is the yellow deposit of fat, protein, and calcium on the conjunctiva. The eye conditions can occur in either of the eyes or one eye at a time. Similar symptom management is recommended, including wearing sunglasses, especially for UV protection.

Some similarities between pterygium and pinguecula

When it comes to pterygium vs.pinguecula, one will come across several differences. But both eye conditions have similarities as mentioned below:

  •   Pterygium and Pinguecula are growths on the conjunctiva of the eyes.
  •   The eye conditions are triggered by excessive exposure to dust, dirt, sand, wind, dry environment, and UV light.
  •   Both conjunctiva growths occur in people ranging from age groups 30 to 50. In very rare occurrences, they affect younger adults.
  •   More or less the management of pterygium and pinguecula are similar, i.e., wearing sunglasses to stay protected from UV lights, sand, dirt, wind, and so on.
  •   Several of the symptoms are similar

What is Pterygium?

This is the conjunctiva growth that usually begins in the inner eye corner and gradually shifts towards the iris. It appears more like skin, fleshy, and even consists of blood vessels. This eye condition is not known to impact the vision of the patient. Thus, when the patient consults the doctor, he/she is not recommended for surgery right away.

The downside of pterygium is that it spreads to the cornea rapidly, causing itchy and watery eyes. At this point, eye drops and other eye medication cannot control or manage the situation completely. Henceforth, the doctor suggests surgically removing the growth. When a pterygium begins, it might initially start as the pinguecula. In the majority of the cases, pterygium is benign.

Common symptoms of pterygium

Some of the common pterygium symptoms include:

  •   Swelling
  •   Redness
  •   Itchiness
  •   General discomfort
  •   Irritated eyes

What is pinguecula?

If pterygium vs.pinguecula is observed minutely, one can find that a pinguecula appears distinct from pterygium. A pinguecula is also a conjunctiva growth, which is yellowish in appearance and has a raised bump on the eye surface. The bump on the surface of the eyes is the fat, protein, and calcium deposits. Under constant exposure to UV lights, a pinguecula can transform into a pterygium. When pinguecula continues to grow in size, the symptoms related might become worse over time.

Similar to pterygium, pinguecula is benign until it starts affecting the vision of the patient. It is very rare to find a pinguecula growing so big that it starts causing problems with vision. Surgery is the final solution when nothing else works. Furthermore, surgery is also suggested by the doctor when a pinguecula turns into pterygium and starts moving towards the cornea.  Usually, the eye doctor recommends eye drops to manage the symptoms of the eye condition.

Common symptoms of pinguecula

The common symptoms of pinguecula are as follows:

  •   Redness
  •   Dry eyes
  •   Irritated eyes
  •   Itchy eyes

Are the eye conditions dangerous?

The good news is that usually the pterygium and pinguecula are not dangerous. Pterygium might change the shape of the cornea and lead to astigmatism, which affects the vision of the patient. At this point, the eye surgeon recommends that a pterygium be eliminated surgically so that the vision can be preserved. When comparing pterygium vs.pinguecula, one of the similarities is that they are severely harmful or dangerous.

Management of both eye conditions

To treat pterygium and pinguecula, the first step of management is lubricating using eye drops. Steroid eye drops are prescribed so that the growth of the eye condition is slowed. When both eye conditions occur, they appear ugly and unwanted, the reasons for which often surgery is prescribed more than the medical problems. The surgery for both eye conditions doesn’t take more than half an hour. Post-surgery, the doctor suggests wearing eye patches for a couple of days for protection, especially when one sleeps.

Need for lifestyle changes

When the conjunctiva growths are eliminated either via eye drops or surgically, it is necessary to initiate lifestyle changes. This is important because there is always the risk of the growth recurring. When a patient experiences pterygium and pinguecula for the first time, there is a high probability of developing again. Studies report that the recurrence rate is almost 40%.

The best way of managing the recurrence of pterygium and pinguecula is to keep the eyes away from dirt, dust, extremely dry weather conditions, sand, and exposure to UV lights. If a patient’s job exposes him to the following conditions as mentioned below, extra caution is demanded.

  •   Wind
  •   Dust
  •   UV lights
  •   Pollen
  •   Smoke

The best way to prevent recurrence is to wear protective eye gear which includes goggles, and special glasses with UV filter lights. Limiting or avoiding the environmental factors is the only way to obstruct pterygium and pinguecula from growing, or preventing the existing growths from getting worse. Individuals who have to be exposed to such environmental conditions regularly due to the nature of their jobs, it is advised to wear protective eyeglasses.


When one comes across the terms pterygium vs.pinguecula, they might appear uncommon. The fact is these are conjunctiva growths and are very common eye conditions. Both the conditions are more or less similar, but yet different in their appearance. The good news is that they can be easily treated with lubricating eye drops. On rare occasions, the doctor prescribes surgery, especially when the growth has grown so big that it impacts vision.

IPS, Wire, English