Pterygium (pronounced tur-IJ-ee-um) and pinguecula (pronounced pin-GWEK-yoo-la) are growths on the cornea (the clear front window of the eye) and the conjunctiva — the thin, filmy membrane that covers the white part of your eye (sclera). Both growths are noncancerous and are fairly common.
A pterygium is a triangular-shaped growth of fleshy tissue on the white of the eye that eventually extends over the cornea. This growth may remain small or grow large enough to interfere with vision. A pterygium can often develop from a pinguecula.
Some pterygia may become red and swollen on occasion, and some may become large or thick, making you feel like you have something in your eye. If a pterygium is large enough, it can actually affect the shape of the cornea’s surface, leading to astigmatism.
Pterygium surgery consist of using a topical anesthetic before surgery to numb the eye's surface. Your eyelids will be kept open while the pterygium is surgically removed. After the procedure, which usually lasts no longer than half an hour depending on the type of surgery done to remove the pterygium, you likely will need to wear an eye patch for protection for a day or two. You should be able to return to work or normal activities the next day. Note that pterygium removal can cause astigmatism or worsen the condition in people who already have this refractive error.
Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology for more information on pterygium.