What Is a Pinguecula?

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A pinguecula is a yellow-colored benign growth or bump on the white of your eye. It most commonly occurs on the side of your eye near your nose, but it can happen on either side. A pinguecula can occur in one or both eyes.

The pinguecula itself is a deposit of protein, fat, or calcium on the conjunctiva, which covers the white part of your eyes. The name comes from the Latin word for fat or grease. It is usually caused by a chronic irritation to the eye, often from too much sun exposure. Learn more about its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Pinguecula in the eye

Zarina Lukash / Getty Images

Pinguecula Symptoms

The symptoms of a pinguecula include:

  • A yellow spot or bump on the white of the eye
  • Decreased ability to use contact lenses
  • Dry eye
  • Itchy or burning eyes
  • The sensation of a foreign body in your eye
  • Tearing in the eye

You may notice the spot yourself when looking in a mirror.

Causes

The most common cause of a pinguecula is too much sun exposure. Other causes of a pinguecula include other sources of irritation:

  • Exposure to dust or sand
  • Eye trauma
  • Increasing age
  • Wind exposure
  • Working outdoors for a long time

Diagnosis

An eye doctor will diagnose a pinguecula with an examination of the eyes. This includes looking at the eye with a slit lamp. A slit lamp is a microscope with a light that allows the healthcare provider to get a better look at your eye. This exam can help distinguish a pinguecula from a pterygium (surfer's eye), which has similar symptoms.

A pterygium is also a growth on the white of the eye that can become big enough to reach the cornea and can block vision. In fact, some pterygia start as a pinguecula.

Although a pinguecula is not a cancerous tumor, the eye doctor's examination can rule out other possible causes for the growth on the eye. These include certain forms of eye cancer such as a rare type of tumor called conjunctival malignant melanoma.

Other causes of growths on the eye that resemble pinguecula include a conjunctival foreign body (something stuck in the white of your eye) and nodular scleritis (a type of inflammation).

Treatment

Many times, a pinguecula does not need treatment. However, if it is uncomfortable or cosmetically bothersome, the eye doctor may treat it. The first recommended treatment may be drops to add moisture to your eyes. These types of drops are called artificial tears. These can help get rid of any irritation or foreign body sensation that you may be feeling.

If your eye is red or swollen, the eye doctor may prescribe a short course of steroid eye drops or topical, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

If the pinguecula is inflamed, the healthcare provider may recommend you use a cold compress for it. This involves wetting a cloth in cold water, such as a bowl of ice water, and placing it over your eye. Use the cold compress for up to 20 minutes at a time and reapply it every two hours.

An eye doctor may perform surgery to remove a pinguecula for cosmetic reasons or if there are severe symptoms. However, there is a chance of scarring after surgery.

Your healthcare provider also will likely talk to you about the importance of using wraparound sunglasses or other protective eyewear to protect your eyes from the sun, dust, or wind. The practitioner also may talk about using drops to keep the eyes lubricated in dry conditions.

Prognosis

Over time, a pinguecula can become larger. It can also progress into a pterygium. You should see an eye doctor if you suspect a pinguecula or are not sure what is causing a yellowish bump on your eye.

A Word From Verywell

A pinguecula can be annoying, but it is a benign growth and is not threatening to your vision. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have severe symptoms from a pinguecula. Using wraparound sunglasses or other protective eyewear can help to avoid the growth of a pinguecula in the future.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wills Eye Hospital. Pinguecula.

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is a pinguecula and a pterygium?

  3. Kellogg Eye Center, Michigan Medicine. Pinguecula (yellow bump on eye).

  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Six things to know about pinguecula and pterygium.

  5. Somnath A, Tripathy K. Pinguecula. StatPearls. Updated February 14, 2021.

  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Pinguecula and pterygium (surfer's eye) treatment.