Having even a little bit of dirt or debris in your eyes can be uncomfortable. Now imagine if there is a bump growing on your eyeball. How uncomfortable will that be? Not to mention that a lot of people will find such kind of a bump growing on the eyeball to be extremely disturbing due to aesthetic reasons. On the other hand, it is also an important health issue and needs to be addressed as it can hinder your vision. The white part of our eyes is covered by a clear, ocular membrane. This is known as the conjunctiva. Bumps on the eyeball are growths which come up on the conjunctiva. There are a number of reasons and conditions behind these bumps growing on the eyeballs and it all depends on the shape and size of the bump, the color, and where exactly it is located on the eye. Read on to discover what types of conditions cause these unsightly bumps on the eyeball.
What Exactly is a Bump on the Eyeball?
Both our eyelids are lined on the inside with a membrane known as conjunctiva. This clear membrane is also what covers the white parts of our eyes. There are generally two types of bumps that can form on the eyeball:
Pinguecula: A Pinguecula is a small bump that comes up on the white part of the eye, usually on the side that is closest to the nose. It is clear or yellowish in color.
Pterygium: A pterygium is also a small bump that comes up on the white part of the eyes, but the difference from a Pinguecula is that a pterygium has tiny blood vessels within its formation. This kind of a eye ball bump can also extend as far as the cornea and can continue to grow in size.
How to Identify an Eyeball Bump?
You may be feeling a growth on your eyeball, but only a routine ophthalmologic examination will determine what type of bump is growing on the eyeball. There are no other specific tests to identify such problems. If the bump on the eyeball is significant in size, causing pain or discomfort, then a consultation with an ophthalmologist is required to make a correct diagnosis and determine the treatment.
What are the Potential Causes of Eyeball Bumps?
Tumor in the Conjunctiva
What may be assumed to be a harmless eyeball bump, could actually also turn out to be a tumor. Growths on the conjunctiva, if allowed to grow unchecked over a period of time, can also be a tumor. A conjunctival tumor appears to be fixed and eyeball bump seems to be minimal in size, and looks thick and fleshy. These eyeball bumps are located in the white part of the eye (conjunctiva) or over the cornea. There are over 5,000 documented cases of conjunctival tumors that have a wide diameter. The blood vessels feeding these bumps are considered to be cancerous in nearly 30% of these cases. If the eyeball bump is diagnosed to be precancerous, it is called as a conjunctival intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). CIN is more commonly found in elderly people and also in people who are exposed to UV rays and have poor immune systems. Studies have shown that people who contract the human papilloma virus (HPV) are also at a higher risk of developing CIN.
Treatment for tumors in the conjunctiva include: Cryotherapy, topical chemotherapy and surgery to remove the cancerous or precancerous cells.
Noncancerous Tumors or Limbal Dermoid
Noncancerous tumors usually occur in children’s eyes and are known as limbal dermoid. These tumors are generally white in color and tend to overlap the white and the colored part of the eye. Limbal dermoids do not cause harm but they can have an impact on the vision. Treatment for these types of eyeball bumps is to remove them surgically if they grow in size or start affecting the child’s vision.
This is the most common cause of an eyeball bump. Pingueculae are yellowish or white looking small bumps on the eyeball. These are primarily deposits of calcium, fat, or protein and are more common in older or middle-aged adults. Men are more likely to get such bumps as compared to women. The most common causes of pinguecula are:
- Dry eye
- Excessive exposure to UV light
- Frequent irritation to the eyes from dust and wind
- Burning and itching in the eyes
- Dry eyes
- Stinging sensation
- Blurred or double vision
- Redness and inflammation
- Foreign body sensation – feeling like something is there in the eye
The most characteristic symptoms of a pinguecula are the yellow or white bumps that form on the white part of the eye, in the area closest to the nose. They can also show up in the part of the eye that is closer to the ear.
Pingueculae are benign and noncancerous eyeball bumps, but they need to be monitored nevertheless. If you notice such a bump forming on your eyeball, then contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor will suggest what signs to watch out for. If you observe the eyeball bump change color, get bigger, or start to interfere with your ability to see properly or with the ability to wear contact lenses, then you should alert your ophthalmologist immediately. It is possible for a pinguecula to grow into a pterygium (discussed below).
Treatment for pingueculae includes using artificial tears three to four times a day and to wear sunglasses while going outside. In some cases, you may have to use a medicated eye drop.
A pterygium is an eyeball bump that is pink or white in color and appears to be shaped like a wedge. It is a fleshy growth and is sometimes referred to as ‘surfer’s eye’ or ‘farmer’s eye’. This is because exposure to UV rays for prolonged hours increases the risk of getting a pterygium. The cause of why people get a pterygium remains unknown, but it is believed that people who are exposed to dust and wind irritants and UV light for very long periods of time on a daily basis are at a higher risk of developing such bumps. People living in a dry climate zone are also more likely to get such eyeball bumps.
It is possible for pterygia to start out as pingueculae and they are generally not harmful to the eye. However, when they grow big enough to cover the cornea, then it can impair vision. These bumps also interfere with your ability to wear contact lenses. Surgery and medicated eye drops are recommended as treatment options for pterygium.
Other Causes for Eyeball Bumps
Other common causes that lead to the appearance of these eyeballs bumps include:
- Exposure to wind and dust on a daily basis.
- Exposure to toxic substances and harmful chemicals.
- Prolonged exposure to sunlight.
- As pterygium is also known as ‘surfer’s eye’, surfing is also one potential cause.
Diagnosing an Eyeball Bump
Your doctor will diagnose the bump on your eyeball primarily through a visual assessment. If your doctor suspects the eyeball bump to be cancerous or is unsure of what the bump is, then you might have to undergo a biopsy of the eye in order to examine it properly.
What is the Treatment of an Eyeball Bump?
Well, treatment of eyeball bumps firstly depends on what is the underlying cause of the bump. Treatment is also only required for the symptoms produced by the eyeball bump. Otherwise, there is really no specific treatment for the eyeball bump unless it starts to grow in size. Eyeball bump is a harmless condition and generally, the irritation and redness caused by the condition can be taken care of by using artificial tears. If there is inflammation in the eye, then your doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory medication to provide pain relief and to reduce the inflammation. For a short-term treatment solution, your doctor may also prescribe corticosteroids.
Surgical intervention is only required if you begin to experience vision problems as the eyeball bump or growth starts to invade the cornea. Then it would need to be removed. However, it is quite possible for the bump to re-appear after the surgery, thus requiring another surgery. Some people also undergo a surgery because of cosmetic concerns.
Preventing an Eyeball Bump
One of the biggest risk factors for getting an eyeball bump is the constant exposure to sun, wind, and/or chemicals. Therefore, when working outdoors or in adverse atmospheres, it is recommended that you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes or use safety goggles when working with chemicals or toxic substances. Choose sunglasses with a high SPF. Wearing a hat with a wide brim will protect you from the sun and wind as well. If your eyes feel dry or irritated, use artificial tears or some over-the-counter eye drops for protective measure. All these measures are effective in preventing the formation of an eyeball bump.
- Mayo Clinic – Pinguecula and Pterygium
- American Academy of Ophthalmology – Pterygium
- Cleveland Clinic – Conjunctival Tumors
- MedicalNewsToday – Pinguecula: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
- WebMD – Eye Problems: Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye)
- National Eye Institute – Facts About Pterygium
- Healthline – Pinguecula: Causes, Symptoms, and More
- ScienceDirect – Noncancerous Tumors of the Eye
- American Academy of Ophthalmology – Limbal Dermoids