A pterygium is a painless, non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva, the lining that covers the white part of the eye. The pterygium may grow on the cornea, which covers the iris, the colored part of the eye. A pterygium usually begins at the nasal side of the eye and can be different colors, including red, pink, white, yellow or gray.
Patients with pterygium often first notice the condition because of the appearance of a lesion on their eye or because of dry, itchy irritation, tearing or redness. Pterygium is initially noticed when it is confined only to the conjunctiva. At this stage of development it is called a pinguecula. As it extends to the cornea it is termed a pterygium and can eventually lead to impaired vision.
Pterygium is diagnosed after a thorough medical examination of the eyes. A slit-lamp examination will allow the physician to examine the cornea, iris and lens to confirm diagnosis.
Causes Of Pterygium
While the causes of pterygium are not entirely known, it is believed to be caused mainly by exposure to UV light. Other suspected causes include living in a dry, dusty, and windy environment. People who live near the equator or play water sports such as surfing and fishing are more likely to develop pterygium. Prolonged exposure to these conditions causes the conjunctiva to thicken and the eye to become red and irritated. Collagen in the eye begins to deteriorate, and the eye weakens.
Studies show that there may also be a genetic predisposition to pterygium, with a higher prevalence occurring in men more than women.
Symptoms Of Pterygium include:
- Tissue in the inner or outer corner of the eye
- Dry eyes
- Redness of the eye
- Burning of the eye
- Blurry vision
In more severe cases, the pterygium may grow over the pupil and limit vision.
Surgical Treatment Of Pterygium
In most mild cases of pterygium, artificial tears can be used to reduce dryness and irritation. For those patients who continue to have eye redness and discomfort, or if the vision is affect due to a large pterygium, surgical removal may be a good option. While the pterygium may grow back after removal, we utilize proper techniques with tissue grafts to greatly reduce the possibility of recurrence.
Prevention Of Pterygium
Sunglasses that block UV rays, particularly sunglasses that provide side coverage, are a good means of protection against pterygium. Wearing a hat with a brim to limit or block sunlight is also helpful. In hot, dry climates, artificial tears should be used to help lubricate the eyes.