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Learn about causes, treatments, and surgery for pingueculum at Harvard Eye Associates.
Pingueculum (ping-gwek-u-lum, plural pinguecula) is a clear eye “bump” or fleshy-appearing growth that is usually found on the white of the eye, most often on the inner corner toward the nose. It is the most common growth found on the eye. Coloration may be yellowish, white, gray or clear. Pinguecula most often occur in middle-aged or older people, and occasionally at any age, even in young children.
While the exact cause of this disorder is unknown, pinguecula occur more frequently in people who live in sunny, windy climates and in people whose jobs expose them to ultraviolet (UV) light, wind, dust or toxic vapor - people who live near the equator, farmers, and arc welders, for example. Pinguecula commonly occur in patients that live in Southern California.
Most often there are no symptoms present with a pingueculum and it is solely a cosmetic concern. Dry eye may contribute to increased irritation, causing inflammation and a “foreign body” sensation. Some patients may experience pingueculitis, a pingueculum that becomes red, swollen and inflamed. Pingueculitis most often occurs with excessive exposure to sun, wind or dust.
Before Pingueculum Surgery
Four Months After Pingueculum Surgery
Most cases of pingueculum do not require any medical treatment. Wearing UV protecting sunglasses while outdoors is generally recommended to limit exposure to the sun, wind, and dust. If redness or irritation is a concern, lubricating eye drops or “artificial tears” may be recommended. Most are available without prescription. As some people do better with one drop over another, we recommend experimenting with various over-the-counter brands to find out the drop best for you.
Many people with pinguecula are very bothered by either the appearance or discomfort from these growths and have not found relief with lubricant eye drops. For significant inflammation and swelling, steroidal eye drops may be prescribed on a short-term basis, but this is generally not recommended as a long-term solution. If the pinguecula are large or interfere with a patient's ability to wear contact lenses, or if a patient has cosmetic concerns, surgical removal is an option.
When surgery is necessary, the pingueclum specialists at Harvard Eye Associates perform the procedure in our surgery center. The expected time required for your appointment is about 90 minutes. Because you will be sedated during the surgery, you will need to prearrange for a driver to take you home. You cannot drive until at least the next day.
You will lie down on a gurney and be given an IV to make you completely relaxed and sleepy. The area around your eye will be numbed so you won't feel or see anything during your procedure.
The actual pingueculum removal procedure will take about 5-10 minutes. After removing the growth on the white part of your eye, your surgeon will cover the bare area with a very thin piece of normal, healthy tissue that is removed from the upper part of the eyeball under the eyelid.
Regrowth of pingueculum is unlikely after surgery. You can reduce the chance of regrowth by wearing your sunglasses outdoors on sunny days, always and not just when you are healing. In our experience, regrowth occurs in less than 1% of our patients. By comparison, when other techniques are used for this surgery, regrowth may occur more often.
After surgery, you will go home with a patch on the eye that stays on until the next morning. Once the patch comes off, you will begin applying eye drops that will continue for about a month. We ask you to avoid lifting objects over 30 pounds, and not to take part in sports, such as tennis, golf, running, or biking, for a week. You may walk, use a computer, drive a car, or fly in a plane during this week, as long as you feel up to it. Avoid swimming for two weeks. Generally, it's safe to do any activity that feels comfortable during this time, but if you're in doubt, err on the side of caution or call our office.
After surgery, you may experience slight discomfort during the first 24 hours. Tylenol, Advil, or aspirin is usually enough to take care of any discomfort, but your surgeon may prescribe something stronger for you to take as needed. Only 2% of our patients tell us they experience anything more than mild discomfort.
Your eye will be red after surgery, more red than it was before. This will gradually improve over the next month or so as the eye naturally heals. It may take a few months for the eye to look its best, but in the end most people are very pleased (see the above before and after photos). If you were to look with magnification you'll probably see some imperfection. While it's impossible for the eye look absolutely perfect after removing this type of growth, people generally say that the appearance of the eye is completely natural after healing is complete. At Harvard Eye Associates, pingueculum surgery won't be recommended to you unless your surgeon feels it will make a significant improvement.
There are risks to any type of surgery, including pingueculum removal. Fortunately, major complications are very unusual, occurring in about 1 in 1000 surgeries. If any particular risks exist because of your unique eye conditions, these would be reviewed with you during your pre-surgery consultation.
Contact our surgical counselors by Requesting an Appointment or calling our office nearest to you.
Harvard Eye Associates
Laguna Hills Office
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24401 Calle de la Louisa
Laguna Hills, California 92653
Harvard Eye Associates
San Clemente Office
Map and Directions
665 Camino de los Mares
San Clemente, California 92673
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