A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth of the clear, thin tissue (conjunctiva) that lays over the white part of the eye (sclera) and the cornea. One or both eyes may be involved.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The cause is unknown, but it is more common in people with excess outdoor exposure to sunlight and wind, such as those who work outdoors.
Risk factors are exposure to sunny, dusty, sandy, or windblown areas. Farmers, fishermen, and people living near the equator or who spend a lot of time outdoors are often affected. Pterygium is rare in children.
The main symptom of a pterygium is a painless area of raised white tissue, with blood vessels on the inner edge of the cornea. Sometimes it may become inflamed and cause burning, irritation, or a feeling like there’s a foreign object in the eye.
Signs and tests
A physical examination of the eyes and eyelids confirms the diagnosis. Special tests are usually not needed.
No treatment is needed unless the pterygium is a constant source of irritation, begins to block vision, or is persistently red and inflamed. Both Drs. Beers and Liu perform surgical removal of pterygia here in the office. A pterygium can sometimes return after it is removed. For this reason, we often use Mitomycin C (an antimetabolite that reduces scar formation) at the time of surgery to help prevent recurrence.
Patients with pterygium should be seen by us annually, so that the condition can be treated before it affects your vision. Call for an appointment if you have had a pterygium in the past and your symptoms return.
Protecting the eyes from ultraviolet light and keeping the eyes moist with artificial tears may help prevent this condition from worsening.