What is a pterygium?
A pterygium is a raised triangular-shaped growth, with its base beginning at the inner white part of the eye (the conunctiva), and its tip growing onto the clear window of the eye (the cornea) and towards the pupil. More rarely, pterygia can also be seen on the outer white part of the eye.
What causes a ptergium?
Pterygia are most commonly due to excessive sun (UV light) exposure. They are therefore very common in Australia, and particularly in patients who have spent a lot of time outdoors for work or recreation.
What are the symptoms of pterygia?
Common symptoms are:
- Grittiness, foreign body sensation, irritation
- Redness (particularly after having been out in the sun and wind)
- Visual disturbance (blurring or distortion of vision)
What is the treatment for pterygia?
If it is a small or asymptomatic pterygium, conservative treatment is usually all that is required. Regular lubrication of the eye with good quality artificial tears will improve the irritation and redness seen with pterygia.
Protection of the eyes from sunlight with dark polarized and wrap-around sunglasses will also reduce irritation and redness, and prevent further growth of pterygia.
When is surgery required for pterygia?
Surgery is generally indicated for:
- Large pterygia causing visual disturbance, either from distortion of the shape of the eye (astigmatism), or growing close to or over the pupil.
- Frequent redness and irritation that is not controlled with conservative measures
- Cosmetically unsightly pterygia