A pingueculum is a growth on the conjunctiva (the fleshy lining of the eye) that starts like a yellow or white bump on the white part of your eye, mostly on the side of your nose. It can remain small, or grow large enough to cover part of the cornea (the clear central part of the eye). When that occurs, it is called a pterygium. It may also become inflamed and cause redness and irritation from time to time. Other symptoms you may experience include grittiness, a sandy feeling in the eyes or dry, itchy and burning eyes.
Anybody can get a pterygium, but it is usually associated with having dry eyes and can also be caused by years of sun exposure (UV-light) and exposure to wind and dust.
A pterygium is not something dangerous. If its not bothering you, it is not necessary for treatment. Your eyes can be kept comfortable by using artificial tear drops to lubricate the eyes on a regular basis, or if they become red, your ophthalmologist may prescribe a short course of steroid drops.
If the pterygium does bother you, the recommended treatment is surgery.
The surgery is done in theatre as a day procedure under local anaesthetic. The eye is numbed with an injection and the growth is removed. A thin piece of your normal conjunctiva is taken from the upper part of the eyeball (underneath the eyelid) and transplanted over the removed area. This is called an autograft or free flap and is glued to the affected area with a special tissue adhesive called Tisseel. No sutures are used.
This technique ensures a lower recurrence rate. The eye is covered for a few hours after the surgery. A contact lens is placed on the eye to protect the surface for the next couple of days. You will still be able to see through the contact lens and your ophthalmologist will remove it after 4 days. The eye may be very red and irritable after the surgery, it is therefore important to use your eye drops as prescribed to promote comfort and healing. The eye is normally completely healed after approximately 6 weeks.
To minimize chances of recurrence of the pterygium you can avoid dryness by using your artificial tear drops regularly and to limit your exposure to sunlight, dust and wind by wearing wrap-around sunglasses.