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Pterygium, Pinguecula and Chalazion

What is a pterygium?

A pinkish, triangular, elevated growth on the conjunctiva (a clear membrane covering the white of the eye) extending onto the cornea – the clear, protective outer covering of the pupil and iris. It is pronounced Tur-i-gee-um.

Are pterygia harmful?

Most pterygia are small and require no treatment unless they become inflamed. These pterygia may be irritating and annoying but not harmful. An unusually large pterygium can affect vision by occluding part of the pupil or altering the shape of the cornea causing an astigmatism.

Where do pterygia come from?

Medical researchers attribute pterygium development to locale, age and gender. Pterygium development increases as exposure to ultraviolet light increases. More people over 40 have pterygia than any other age group. However, people aged 20-40 have the most cases of pterygium onset than any other group and men are twice as likely to present pterygia as women.

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How are pterygia treated?

When a pterygium becomes red and swollen from dust or air pollutants, lubrication with artificial tears provides relief in most cases. In a chronic or severely inflamed pterygium, a mild, topical steroid corrects this condition.

Can a pterygium be removed?

Yes. Although surgical removal is possible, the procedure is reserved for patients whose vision is adversely affected by the pterygium or if a pterygium causes recurrent inflammation. Removal of pterygia for cosmetic reasons is discouraged.

Why is that?

If the patient is less than 40, another pterygium may replace the one that was surgically removed. Socially, other people rarely notice a pterygium. They are usually only seen by ophthalmologists and people who have them. For those reasons, cosmetic removal is discouraged.

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What kind of surgery is performed for pterygium removal?

Surgery occurs under local anesthesia in a surgery center or the procedure room in the ophthalmologist’s office. The pterygium is excised and the bare area where the pterygium was removed is covered with a graft extracted from the patient’s conjunctiva. Some patients receive a preserved amniotic membrane transplant. These procedures significantly reduce the risk of recurrent pterygia.

Can pterygium development be prevented?

Shield your eyes from ultraviolet light with sunglasses, hats and visors.

What is a Pinguecula?

An elevated, yellowish brown nodule in the conjunctiva - a clear membrane covering the white of the eye. A pinguecula does not encroach upon the cornea. It is pronounced Pin-gwek-u-la.

Are Pingueculi harmful?

Pinguecula are usually small and confined to a part of the eye not responsible for vision. An inflamed pinguecula can cause redness and irritation. This condition is treated with eye drops or ointment.

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Where do Pingueculi come from?

Ophthalmologists believe a pterygium begins as a pinguecula. Development is significantly more common in climates with above average levels of ultraviolet light. Environmental pollution may also be a factor in the development of pingueculi.

Can pingueculi be prevented?

Avoidance of ultraviolet light as well as dust, dirt, sand, heat, wind and airborne pollution such as exhaust and chemical fumes is recommended to maintain optimum eye health beyond the potential development of pterygia and pingueculi.

What is a chalazion?

A pimple like lump on the eyelid. It can be a small, spherical nodule or large and asymmetrical. It may or may not be painful or tender. It is pronounced Kuh-lay-zee-on or Shee-lay-zee-on.

Where does a chalazion come from?

Eyelids have lashes and adjacent to the lashes are glands that produce oil to lubricate the eyes. If an oil gland becomes blocked or malfunctions, the oily material accumulates and becomes inflamed forming a chalazion.

Are a chalazion and a sty the same thing?

Yes. Chalazion is a medical term and sty is the common name.

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What causes a chalazion?

Blockage in a chalazion is related to the viscosity of the oil in the eyelid’s lubrication glands. Oil can be a clear, flowing liquid or it can be coagulated and solidified. Occasionally, blockage is related to bacteria.

What are the symptoms of a chalazion?

Most chalazia appear as small lumps. In this state, they are a minor annoyance. However, when inflamed, a chalazion will swell and become red and painful. An unusually large chalazion can compress on the eye and adversely affect vision.

How is a chalazion treated?

A warm compress using a washcloth coupled with gentle massage of the area will usually loosen a blocked gland in the same way heat melts solidified fat. Under no circumstances should a chalazion or a sty be squeezed, scratched or punctured. This risks infectious, contaminated cells oozing into delicate, sensitive eye tissues.

If a chalazion or a sty does not recede after a couple days of home compress treatments, an ophthalmologist should be seen. If the eyelid becomes red, swollen, sensitive to light and painful, prescription eye drops or an ointment may be necessary. A particularly resistant chalazion may require surgical drainage or removal by an experienced ophthalmologist.

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