Posted by: juliegriffey | February 2, 2014

Does my daughter have pterygium or a pinguecula? Learning about new eye-related diseases

ilses-eyeOne evening last week my young daughter came up to me and said, “Mom, I have a read spot in my eye.” And lo-and-behold – she did.  It was a little red spot in the white part of her eye that was not causing her any pain – it just looked a bit odd.   So I took a picture and sent it to my husband (the ER doctor) and my brother-in-law (the ophthalmologist) to get their opinions.

What followed was a stream of potential afflictions – which could have been Japanese as far as I was concerned because none of what they were saying made any sense to me.  However, being in the optical industry, I was a bit curious about these strange sounding diseases they were throwing around: pterygium, pinguecula… (See what I mean?  It could have been Japanese.)

A pterygium (also known as surfer’s eye) is a growth on the conjuctiva and is usually seen on the nasal side of the eye. People who are out in the sun get it more.  Although it is benign, if it gets big enough it can grow towards center of eye onto and into the cornea, become unsightly and impair vision.  If this is the case, ophthalmologists will scrape it off or laser it.

A pinguecula is similar to pterygium except that it is seen on the outer part of the eye as opposed to the nasal side.  It too is benign and is found in people who get extensive sun exposure. In the case of both a pinguecula or a ptergyium, UV protection can help them from greeting worse.

Fortunately, my daughter had neither a pterygium or a pinguecula.  And now that I know a little more about these things I realize that this was a pretty crazy suggestion being that both are found typically in people over 40 and she is 8.   More than likely what she had was a  subconjunctival hemorrhage – which is caused when small blood vessels in the whites of the eyes break due to sneezing, coughing, or other physical strain.  After a few days the spot seems to be going away and the investigation is closed, and all I am left with is some new knowledge of some obscure optical conditions.



  1. How is your daughter’s eye now? My son has got similar red spot in his eye, but in the nasal area few weeks or so. Which I am a bit concern about. Hoping it is sub conjunctival hemorrhage and he tends to rubs his eyes a fair bit. Seeing his doctor on Monday, he had his eye test, everything seem to be fine.

    • Completely normal. I think our diagnosis was right on. Thanks for asking.

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