Q:

What causes fatty deposits in the eye?

A:

Dr. Burt Dubow, a senior partner at Insight Eye Care, explains that a fatty deposit in the eye is called pinguecula, which appears on the white part of the eye due to dryness and exposure to dust, wind or sunlight. Although it is harmless, the condition can be irritated, red and sore.

A pinguecula is a yellowish, slightly raised thickened membrane near the edge of the cornea on the white of the eye called sclera, explains Michelle Stephenson, a contributing editor for Review of Ophthalmology. It usually occurs on the area between the eyelids, making it exposed to the sun. Middle-aged and older people who spend a lot of time outdoors typically have pinguecula. This condition also occurs in younger people and children, particularly those who stay in the sun without protection like sunglasses or hats.

Stephenson states that an irritated pinguecula likely causes a "foreign body sensation" or a feeling that something is in the eye. Exposure to dust, wind, sun and extremely dry conditions leads to pingueculitis, a condition where the pinguecula becomes swollen and inflamed, causing irritation and eye redness.

Dr. Dubow recommends that a person with pinguecula wears quality wraparound sunglasses and a hat with a brim to reduce irritation and protect the eyes. A lubricating eye drop is suggested for irritated and sore pinguecula.


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