When a pingueculum continues to grow, it can start to cover the edge of the clear cornea, and now it is called a “pterygium”. These are local changes in tissue and do not represent cancer. They can vary in appearance from looking like a mild focal pinkeye to larger white patches with overlying red blood vessels.
They are generally caused by sun exposure, low humidity, dry eyes, or genetics. Although they are not harmful, they can cause issues with vision, irritation and appearance. They may at times be confused with other problems such as infections or tumors, so that seeing an eye doctor is always recommended.
If removal is needed or desired, an ophthalmic surgeon will evaluate and discuss treatment/surgical options with the patient. The growth can be surgically removed using various techniques that are individualized to the specific patient. Even with the best of surgeries, these growths can recur, so wearing sunglasses and preventing dry eye is important before and after such surgery. In addition, the primary eye doctor can also recommend other treatments to help prevent worsening or recurrence.