What is a Pterygium?
A pterygium is a fleshy, triangular or wing-shaped growth of the eye. It usually occurs on the inner corner of the eye, but can also appear on the outer corner.
It is a slow-growing, benign lesion, and is mostly harmless. However, a pterygium may sometimes grow over the cornea, and in rare cases, it can grow large enough to cover the central cornea and affect vision.
What causes Pterygium?
The exact cause of pterygium is still not known, and is thought to be due to multiple factors interacting together. However, ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun has been proven to be the most likely contributing factor. Exposure to long-hours of sunlight outdoors and in dry, dusty conditions seems to play an important role.
How do I know if I have a Pterygium?
• A whitish growth with prominent blood vessels on the inner and/or outer corners of the eye
• One can get pterygium in one or both eyes
• redness over the affected area
• dry eye symptoms
• occasional tearing
• foreign body sensation
• blurring of vision (in advanced cases when growth is over the central cornea or when it causes astigmatism due to the stress forces it exerts on the cornea surface)
What can I do to prevent Pterygium growth?
You should use protective sunglasses with ultraviolet ray protection when outdoors or driving, and headgear with brims when exposed to very strong sun-light.
What kinds of treatments are available for Pterygia?
In very early cases, when there are no symptoms and when the pterygium is not cosmetically significant, it can be left alone.
When the pterygium causes irritation, redness or discomfort, artificial tears can help moisturise the eye and relieve the discomfort. Eye-drops, however, will not affect the growth of the pterygium. When the pterygium is cosmetically obvious, or is causing symptoms including blurring of vision, surgical removal is recommended.
The surgery involves removing the fleshy growth, as well as, transplanting a translucent patch called the conjunctiva over the surgical site, to reduce the risk of the pterygium growing back again (recurrence). This patch of conjunctiva is usually from one’s own eye (conjunctival auto-graft). Attachment of the auto-graft can be with sutures or ‘suture-less’ (i.e. with use of fibrin glue). The risk of pterygium recurrence following surgical removal and conjunctival auto-graft is low.