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The Environment and the White of Your Eye

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A pinguecula is a yellowish bump that forms on the white of the eye (sclera), near the edge of the cornea. More often than not, it arises on the side nearest the nose.

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is the primary cause of a pinguecula. Frequent exposure to dusty, windy, or extremely dry conditions can contribute as well. Those who are middle-aged or older are at highest risk.

A pinguecula is not cancerous, but any growth on the eye should prompt an optometric checkup. In many cases, a pinguecula is not bothersome; however, for some people it can be a nuisance and more:

  • If a pinguecula is big enough, it may cause difficulty in wearing contact lenses.
  • Since a pinguecula is a raised bump, the tear film may not spread evenly, leading to dry eyes (stinging, itching, foreign-body sensation, etc.).
  • A pinguecula may become swollen or inflamed (pingueculitis).
  • “Attractive” is not a word generally associated with a pinguecula.

Treatment varies depending upon symptoms and severity. Various eyedrops (prescription and/or nonprescription), nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medication, and scleral contacts may be beneficial. Some people want a pinguecula surgically removed due to functional or cosmetic reasons. Wearing UV-protective sunglasses whenever outdoors in daylight hours is an important piece of the puzzle, too.


Written by Dr. Michael Duong

Dr. Duong received his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry at San Jose State University. He then attended Pennsylvania College of Optometry and received his Doctor of Optometry in 2009.
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