A pterygium, pronounced with a silent "p", and pinguecula are quite similar to each other. They both are fairly easy to see since they grow on the front surface of the eye. The cause of each is also similar. Pterygia and pinguecula are frequently found in patients who are exposed to frequent sun, wind, or dust. Patients whose occupation or recreation requires them to be outdoors are more likely to develop these conditions.
Gender is also a determining factor. Males develop pterygia or pinguecula approximately three times more often than females. Although pterygia and pinguecula share similarities, their locations on the eye are different. A pterygium is a growth on the transparent outer layer of the eye, the conjunctiva, that grows onto the cornea. A pinguecula is actually degenerated tissue, and usually appears as a yellowish-brown mass only on the conjunctiva.
A pterygium may progress and grow further onto the cornea, and may eventually affect the vision. A pterygium may also cause tension or scarring on the cornea, inducing astigmatism. For symptoms and also for cosmetic reasons, surgical excision of a pterygium may be indicated.
Symptoms from pterygia or pinguecula may range from mild to severe, and can include blurred vision, irritation, itching, dryness, and burning.
Prevention is by far the best method of treatment. Prevention includes wearing protective hats and sunglasses when outdoors on sunny days. If treatment is necessary, artificial tear eye drops relieve redness, dryness, irritation and inflammation.