Glow Of The Month: Pinguecula

Posted on 2019-06-11

Know The Glow is dedicated to protecting the eyesight of children all over the world through advocacy and education. We empower parents, family members, and teachers with knowledge about “the Glow” so that they can spot it. Together we can work to ensure that no child goes needlessly blind by educating people about the dangers associated with “the Glow.”

As part of our ongoing “Glow of the Month” program, today we talk about Pinguecula.

What is Pinguecula?
Pinguecula is a growth on the clear covering over the white part of the eye, known as the conjunctiva. It’s a deposit of protein, fat, or calcium. Unlike eye diseases like Retinoblastoma, Pinguecula is visible with the naked eye, and looks like a yellow spot or bump. Pinguecula can affect people of any age, not only children. In fact, it’s most common in older and middle aged people, but anyone who spends a significant amount of time in the sun is at risk. It’s harmless for your vision, but can be uncomfortable. You may feel an itching or burning sensation in your eye, either from the pinguecula or the irritant that causes it.

What causes Pinguecula?
It’s believed that this growth occurs as the eye’s way of defending itself from exposure to wind, dust, and UV light from the sun. It’s sometimes known as “surfer’s eye,” since the beach conditions can make it a common problem, but in the winter, the sunlight reflecting off of white snow and windy conditions can also cause it.

How is Pinguecula treated?
Pinguecula is typically resolved quickly by using eye drops. If it’s a persistent problem, a doctor may prescribe artificial tears with a steroid. As a last resort, or if the pinguecula is particularly painful, surgery to remove it is an option.

In bad cases, pinguecula can turn into pingueculitis, when the tissue becomes inflamed. A doctor would prescribe steroid drops for this, but surgery may be needed to resolve it quickly.

How can I protect my sight?
To protect your eyes, be sure to wear sunglasses that filter out UV light, wear safety glasses or goggles when doing activities that can be dusty or windy, and use artificial tears when your eyes are dry.

As the weather warms up, remember to protect your sight and your children’s sight with sunglasses, especially when heading to the beach.

Can Pinguecula present with the Glow?
Yes.  One of our KTG families has a four year old child who was recently diagnosed with Pinguecula.  At first the family noticed the child’s eye was bloodshot. They thought maybe he was developing pink eye.  However, over the coming days they began to notice a yellow tone to the eye and that a bubble had formed. The doctors that she initially called were not concerned, they too felt it was an infection of some sort.  During this time the mother discovered a Glow in the flash photos of her son. This Glow indicated to her, and to the doctors, that there was more going on than an infection. Her son was thoroughly examined and he was diagnosed with Pinguecula.  Their doctor explained the reason the Glow appears in his photos: “Healthy eyes have a gel-like film covering them. The spot where the Pinguecula appears tends to have less gel or no gel at all. This composition change can create an abnormal red reflex.”