What are Pingueculas?

close up eye, acute pingueculas, asian patient has red eyes and feeling pain, infection in eye

The sun has started gracing us with its warm presence!

Many Idahoans are already anticipating the days to come: of the endless hours basking in the sun’s rays, hiking those mountain trails, roaring across dirt roads on those four wheelers and getting those hands dirty with garden soil.

Come late August you will be feeling better than ever, right?

Identifying Pinguecula

Oh, but wait, there is that pesky problem that has been going on with your eye… that strange and annoying feeling as if you constantly have sand stuck in there? And now that you think about it, that eye is looking a little red and swollen around the inside of the lid and if you look closer at it...what is that?! That strange yellowish bump just towards the inner corner of the eye , right on the white part? What is that and how the heck did it get there?!

Firstly, don’t panic (and don’t touch it!). That yellowish little bump in your eye is called a pinguecula and it is quite the harmless little growth made of minute deposits of protein, fat and calcium. It forms on the palpebral conjunctiva of the eye (that transparent membrane protecting the white portion of your eye, called the sclera) and can cause the sensation that you have sand or grit in the eye.

Why Pingueculas Occurs

So how did it get there? Well, remember those endless days enjoying the sun, wind whipping through your hair as you race through summer without a care in the world? Yeah, well it looks like your eyes do as well and they have little pinguecula to help you remember too. While we don’t have a complete understanding of what exactly causes pingueculas, we do know that those individuals with chronic exposure to ultraviolet light (thank you Mr. Sun), wind and dry and warm climates (that credit goes to Idaho summers) are more prone to developing them.

The good news is, pingueculas usually do not require treatment beyond using artificial lubricating tears to help lessen the dry and irritated sensation felt in the eye. On rare occasions, steroid eye drops are prescribed for use when redness and swelling of the conjunctiva results as the pinguecula grows. With proper care and attention, pingueculas should resolve on their own.

So how can you avoid having a pinguecula putting a damper on your summer fun? The use of sunglasses while out enjoying those sunny days will help protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays and keeping your eyes well lubricated with artificial tears to stave off dryness can help as well! Wearing glasses or goggles to shield your eyes from the harsh effects of the wind can also reduce the chances of any debris getting in and causing irritation to your eyes!

If you suspect that you may have a pinguecula or are experiencing problems with dryness, irritation, swelling or redness of the eyes, do not hesitate to contact Gem State Family Eye Care! We can help get your eyes feeling and seeing better so that you don’t have to miss a single moment of enjoying recreational activities Idaho’s hills and mountains have to offer!