White dot on iris

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What is a growth on the conjunctiva?

The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that lines the inside of your eyelids and covers the white of your eye. There are two kinds of growths:

A pingueculum is a small bump on the white of your eye, usually on the side closest to your nose. The bump may be clear or yellowish.

A pterygium is a small bump that has tiny blood vessels in it. This growth can get bigger and cover part of your cornea, which is the clear outer layer on the front of your eye.

What is the cause?

These growths may be caused by:

  • Wind or dust
  • Damaging chemicals
  • Ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun

They are more common in people who spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in sunny climates.

What are the symptoms?

Most commonly there are no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Eye redness, itching or burning
  • Dry, gritty eyes or watery eyes
  • Blurry vision

How is it diagnosed?

These growths are often found during a routine eye exam. No special tests are needed.

How is it treated?

If these growths do not cause any problems, they do not need to be treated. If they cause redness or irritation, you can use eyedrops called artificial tears. You can buy these products without a prescription.

A pterygium may grow and change the shape of your cornea, which can cause blurry vision. It can block light entering your eye. A pterygium that causes vision problems can be removed with surgery.

The growth will not go away on its own. Sometimes it will come back even after surgery.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent growths on the conjunctiva?

Growths on the conjunctiva happen more often in sunny and windy areas. Wear sunglasses outdoors to help decrease the chance of developing these growths. It may also help to use artificial tears to prevent dry eyes.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/

What Is This White Spot on My Eye?

There are several things that can cause a white spot on your eye. Below, we’ll talk about each possible cause in more detail.

Corneal ulcer

The cornea is the clear outermost part of your eye. It helps to protect your eye from harmful particles and also plays a role in focusing your vision.

A corneal ulcer is an open sore that occurs on your cornea. A white spot on your cornea can be one of the symptoms. Corneal ulcers can threaten your vision and are considered to be an eye emergency. People at risk for corneal ulcers include those who:

  • wear contact lenses
  • have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • have experienced an injury to their eye
  • have dry eyes

A condition called keratitis precedes the formation of a corneal ulcer. Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea. It’s often caused by an infection, although noninfectious causes, like injury or autoimmune disease, are also possible.

A variety of things can cause a corneal ulcer to form, including:

  • bacterial infections caused by organisms like Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • viral infections due to HSV, varicella zoster virus, or cytomegalovirus
  • fungal infections, such as those caused by fungi like Aspergillus and Candida
  • acanthamoeba infection, which is caused by a parasite found in fresh water and soil
  • autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
  • injury or trauma
  • severe dry eyes

Cataracts

Cataracts happen when the lens of your eye gets cloudy. The lens is the part of your eye that focuses light so that the images of what you’re seeing can be projected onto your retina.

Cataracts often progress slowly, but they can start to affect your vision over time. As cataracts worsen, you may notice that the lens of your eye changes to a cloudy whitish or yellowish color.

A variety of things can cause cataracts, including age, other eye conditions, and underlying health conditions like diabetes. You can also be born with cataracts.

Corneal dystrophy

Corneal dystrophy is when material builds up on your cornea, affecting your vision. There are many different types of corneal dystrophies. Some of them can cause opaque, cloudy, or gelatinous looking spots to appear on your cornea.

Corneal dystrophies typically progress slowly and can affect both eyes. They’re also often inherited.

Pinguecula and pterygium

Both pinguecula and pterygium are growths that occur on your conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear covering over the white part of your eye. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, dry eyes, and exposure to wind or dust cause both of these conditions.

Pinguecula looks like a whitish-yellow bump or spot. It often occurs on the side of your eye that’s closest to your nose. It’s made up of fat, protein, or calcium.

Pterygium has a flesh-like coloration that grows over the cornea. It may start out as a pinguecula and can grow large enough to affect vision.

Coats disease

Coats disease is a rare condition that affects the retina. The retina is the part of your eye that detects light and color, sending that information to your brain via the optic nerve.

In Coats disease, the blood vessels of the retina don’t develop normally. A white mass may be observed in the pupil, particularly when it’s exposed to light.

Coats disease typically only affects one eye. However, in rare cases, it can affect both eyes. The cause of this condition is currently unknown.

Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that starts on your retina. Genetic mutations in the retina cause retinoblastoma. It’s also possible to inherit these mutations from a parent.

Although retinoblastoma can occur in adults, it more commonly affects children. It can affect just one eye or both eyes. People with retinoblastoma may notice a white-colored circle in the pupil, particularly when light is shined into the eye.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

SCC is a type of skin cancer. It can also affect your conjunctiva. People with this type of cancer may notice a white growth on the surface of their eye.

SCC often only affects one eye. Risk factors for SSC affecting the conjunctiva include exposure to UV radiation, HIV and AIDS, and allergic conjunctivitis.

Do I Have a Cyst on My Eye?

To date, there are no established values for corneal temperatures that we can use to detect specific problems in the eye, so I can’t tell you what might be causing the increase in your corneal temperature. A couple of studies have correlated corneal temperature with diseases basically unrelated to the eye, but nothing has been formally accepted as standard. My thought is that your eye doctor might be testing a new approach for diagnosing a particular disease using corneal temperature readings, and he or she therefore referred you to a colleague who might be conducting the study. To my knowledge, there are no dedicated instruments on the market that measure corneal temperature, and my best guess is that your doctor may be treating your case as part of an investigational procedure.

If the doctor was actually referring to a raised intraocular pressure,which is what we routinely measure to rule out glaucoma, you should follow his or her instructions carefully. Further investigation may include an evaluation of the optic nerve head, with dilated pupils, and possibly a visual field test. With these exams, your doctor may be able to give you a definitive diagnosis of glaucoma and advise you on the most appropriate medications to keep your intraocular pressure within normal limits.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Vision Center.

Corneal Ulcers or White Spots on Your Eye

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What Causes a Corneal Ulcer?

A corneal ulcer is most commonly caused by bacteria and fungal infections, though it can occur in anyone who has sustained a direct eye injury. The trauma creates an entry point for bacteria or other microorganisms to invade and establish an infection.

Contact lens wearers have a significantly higher risk of developing a corneal ulcer. This is especially true for individuals who wear extended duration contacts as they are ten times more likely to develop an infection. They are also susceptible to microtrauma that can occur from the lens itself. With extended wear, contact lenses can develop small scratches at the edge or deposits that can lead to this microtrauma. In addition, contacts can harbor bacteria on the surface over time. Lastly, these contact lenses can obstruct oxygen availability and thus make the cornea more susceptible to infection. Wearing contacts overnight is also associated with a higher risk of infection.

Ulcers can also occur due to other microorganisms. The herpes virus, commonly associated with cold sores, can lead to recurrent corneal ulcers. Contact wearers are at higher risk for a fungal or parasitic infection. One example is Acanthamoeba, a parasite found in tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs, and lakes that lead to a severe corneal ulcer.

Contact users must maintain good hygiene to prevent corneal ulcers and reduce their risk of an infection. This includes washing your hands regularly before handling contacts, disinfecting and disposing of lenses in a timely fashion, and frequent cleaning of contact lens cases. Individuals should also avoid wearing lenses during swimming or showering.

Risk Factors for Corneal Ulcers

Patients with severe dry eyes, eyelid abnormalities leading to exposure of the cornea, and autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are especially prone to infection and should be aware of this possibility.

What are the Symptoms of a Corneal Ulcer?

Any individual experiencing symptoms of eye pain or foreign body sensation, blurred vision, eye discharge, or light sensitivity should seek urgent care from an eye care provider. Delay in attention and treatment can lead to vision loss and sometimes even blindness or loss of the eye. Those who wear contacts should immediately stop using their lenses.

Corneal Ulcer Treatment

When treating corneal ulcers, your ophthalmologist or optometrist will obtain a detailed history and examine the extent and location of the ulcer. He or she will initiate the frequent use of topical antibiotics, and in certain severe or unusual circumstances, obtain cultures to determine the specific bacteria causing the infection. You will be asked to return for a reassessment of the ulcer and its response to antibiotics every 1 to 3 days.

Most patients respond well to topical antibiotics with good visual prognosis. In severe cases where the central cornea is affected, treatment may be required for a duration of several weeks to months. Patients can also develop cataracts or glaucoma concurrently. Permanent vision loss may occur despite aggressive treatment due to irreversible scarring of the cornea. In these rare cases, a corneal transplant procedure and long visual rehabilitation may be necessary to restore the patient’s vision.

What is a pinguecula?

Conditions

By Amy Hellem; reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD

A pinguecula (pin-GWEK-yoo-lah) is a yellowish, slightly raised thickening of the conjunctiva on the white part of the eye (sclera), close to the edge of the cornea.

Pingueculae are non-cancerous bumps on the eyeball and typically occur on top of the middle part of the sclera — the part that’s between your eyelids and therefore is exposed to the sun.

Usually pingueculae affect the surface of the sclera that’s closer to the nose, but they can occur on the outer sclera (closer to the ear) as well.

Causes

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the primary cause of the development of pingueculae, but frequent exposure to dust and wind also appear to be be risk factors. Dry eye disease also may be a contributing factor and can promote the growth of pingueculae.

Pingueculae are more common in middle-aged or older people who spend a lot of time in the sun. But they also can occur in younger people and even children — especially those who are often outdoors without sunglasses or hats to protect their eyes from the sun’s UV rays.

To decrease the risk of pinguecula, it’s important to wear sunglasses outdoors even on overcast and cloudy days, because the sun’s UV rays penetrate cloud cover. For the best protection, choose sunglasses with a wraparound frame design, which block more sunlight than regular frames.

Signs and symptoms

In most people, pingueculae don’t cause many symptoms. But when they do, those symptoms usually stem from a disruption of the tear film. Because a pinguecula is a raised bump on the eyeball, the natural tear film may not spread evenly across the surface of the eye around it, causing dryness. This can cause dry eye symptoms, such as a burning sensation, stinging, itching, blurred vision and foreign body sensation.

Another symptom of pingueculae is the appearance of extra blood vessels in the conjunctiva that covers the sclera, causing red eyes.

In some cases, pingueculae can become swollen and inflamed. This is called pingueculitis. Irritation and eye redness from pingueculitis usually result from excessive exposure to sunlight, wind, dust or extremely dry conditions.

Sometimes people confuse pingueculae with eye growths called pterygia, but they are different. Learn more about what a pterygium is.

Treatment

Pinguecula treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are. It’s especially important for anyone with pingueculae to protect their eyes from the sun, since it’s the sun’s harmful UV rays that causes pingueculae to develop in the first place and encourages them to keep growing.

To help protect your eyes from pingueculae, shield your eyes from the sun whenever you are outdoors in daylight (even on overcast days because the sun’s UV rays penetrate clouds).

Consider purchasing photochromic lenses, which darken automatically in sunlight and provide 100 percent UV protection. Photochromic lenses also shield your eyes from harmful high-energy blue light. Ask your eye care professional for details.

If a pinguecula is mild but accompanied by dry eye irritation or foreign body sensation, lubricating eye drops may be prescribed to relieve symptoms. Scleral contact lenses sometimes are prescribed to cover the growth, protecting it from some of the effects of dryness or potentially from further UV exposure.

Pingueculae also can lead to localized inflammation and swelling that is sometimes treated with steroid eye drops or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If dry eye is the cause of the pinguecula, eye drops formulated to treat dry eyes also may be prescribed.

Surgical removal of a pinguecula may be considered if it becomes especially uncomfortable, if it interferes with contact lens wear or blinking or if it is cosmetically bothersome.

Finally, although a pinguecula is non-cancerous, you should report any changes in size, shape or color of any bump on your eyeball to your eye doctor.

Page updated April 2019

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Amy Hellem

Amy Hellem is a writer, editor and researcher who specializes in eye care and other medical fields.

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Having eyeball spots refers to any discoloration on the surface of the eyeball, not visual disturbances like floaters or seeing halos. These eyeball spots can be visually observed by other people.

Eyeball spots may be caused by a variety of different medical conditions or diseases. While some may be relatively harmless, others may be the result of significant health problems. Discoloration may appear as a brown, pink, red, yellow, or white spot on the eyeball, making those affected feel concerned that their vision is at risk.

Causes of eyeball spots

Everything from minor trauma to cancer can cause the development of eyeball spots. Most are non-serious and present without any additional symptoms, but it is recommended to see an optometrist if you notice any change in your eyes or vision. Eyeball spots are generally very easy to identify, as they contrast with the rest of the eye.

The visible surface of the eyeball consists of the cornea (the clear front window of the eye), the pupil (the dark aperture of the iris that focuses light rays onto the retina), the iris (colored part of the eye that regulates the amount of light that enters), the sclera (the whites of the eyes) and the conjunctiva (a highly vascularized covering of the sclera).

The following are various medical conditions that may be possible causes of eyeball spots.

Axenfeld nerve loop: Long posterior ciliary nerve loops found within the sclera. Loops may appear as grey or white nodules under the conjunctiva and are often surrounded by pigment. Axenfeld nerve loops are fairly common and may be confused as being an embedded foreign body in the eye.

Crystal deposits: The use of vitamin C eye drops can cause crystal deposits to form in the cornea of the eye.

Horner-Trantas dots: Characterized by small rounded protuberances, called papilla, found on the surface of the eye or the eyelid. Additional symptoms include severe itching, photophobia, foreign body sensation, mucous discharge, blepharospasm (abnormal contraction of the eyelid), and blurring of vision. This condition often affects young males in hot dry climates in a seasonal manner and is thought to be an allergic and inflammatory response.

Nevus: Occasionally called a “freckle of the eye,” similar to a mole found on the skin. A nevus is a colored growth in front of the eye, around the iris, or under the retina at the back of the eye. They are usually harmless, but could possibly develop into cancer of the eye.

Pinguecula: Described as being a yellowish, slightly raised thickening of the conjunctiva. They are non-cancerous and appear as bumps on the eyeball, typically found on the top of the middle part of the sclera. Pinguecula is believed to be caused by ultraviolet radiation exposure from the sun, but frequent exposure to dust and wind also appear to be causative risk factors. This condition can be seen more commonly in middle-aged or older people who spend a lot of time outdoors without sunglasses and hats to protect their eyes from harmful sun rays.

Pterygium: Also known as surfer’s eye, this condition is described as being a growth of pink, fleshy tissues on the conjunctiva. It generally forms on the side closest to the nose and can grow towards the pupil area. Despite its disturbing appearance, pterygium isn’t cancer, with its growth typically slowing down over time or stopping at a certain period. Extreme cases see a partial or complete coverage of the pupil causing vision disturbances.

Racial melanosis: A benign, bilateral condition found mostly in darkly pigmented individuals. They are characterized by flat conjunctival pigmentation or dark spots. This condition rarely develops into conjunctival melanoma.

Scleral thinning: Can occur due to various conditions such as various conditions, including myopic degeneration, chronic scleritis, local scleral pathologies, and scleral injury. It is characterized by the thinning of the white part of the eyes known as the sclera and can be due to excessive use of cautery in the scleral bed, overuse of antimetabolites, prolonged irradiation, transscleral diode laser cycloablation, strabismus surgery, and deep sclerectomy procedures.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage: Appears as a red area on the sclera and is due to small vessels within the conjunctiva breaking spontaneously or due to injury. These red spots can be easily spotted and typically do not present with any additional symptoms. Subconjunctival hemorrhage tends to clear without treatment in one or two weeks.

Corneal ulcers: Known as an open sore on the cornea and has a wide variety of causes including infection, physical, and chemical trauma. Ulcers on the cornea can cause serious problems and may result in vision loss or even blindness. Most cases improve with appropriate treatment.

Conjunctival melanoma: A cancerous, life-threatening growth that appears as a brown spot on the eye. They are typically painless, flat, and have a brownish discoloration. They are often mistaken for a benign freckle on the eye but may evolve into one or more brown or pink nodules on the eye. Conjunctival melanoma is more commonly seen in Caucasian individuals.

Conjunctival squamous carcinoma: A type of cancer found on the surface of the eye more commonly seen in older Caucasian individuals. They may appear as white or yellow-pink nodules that are easily seen upon inspection. It is believed that this condition is caused by excessive exposure to sunlight.

Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI): A congenital disease frequently caused by a defect in the gene that produces type one collagen, an important component for the formation of bone, skin, and dentin. The severity of this condition depends on the specific gene defect. Symptoms include having a blue tint on the whites of the eyes, multiple bone fractures, and hearing loss. Because type one collagen affects many structures in the body, those affected may eventually develop bowed legs and arms as well.

Uveitis and iritis: Inflammation of the middle part of the eye called the uvea and consists of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. Possible causes include eye injury and inflammatory disease. Additionally, exposure to toxic chemicals such as pesticides and acids may also cause the condition. Typically, symptoms include red eyes, eye pain, light sensitivity, and decreased visual acuity.

Complications of eyeball spots

Ultimately, the underlying cause of your eyeball spot will determine what kind of complications you will develop. However, for the most part, eyeball spots do not present with serious complications but may have an associated itchy or gritty feeling. Depending on the cause of your eyeball spot, it may cause significant discomfort, leave scarring, or even develop into cancer.

Once the underlying cause of your particular eyeball spot condition has been identified by an experienced medical professional, tailored treatment and conservative management can begin.

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