A pterygium – pronounced as ter-ig-e-um – is a fleshy growth that develops when an eye is regularly exposed to bright sunlight and wind. It’s common in people who spend a lot of time outdoors in sunny and windy conditions.
A Pterygium is a usually harmless condition affecting the conjunctiva of the eye – often on the side closest to the nose. If it grows across the cornea, it can cause scarring and sometimes loss of vision. The growth may also distort the shape of the cornea, causing vision problems.
One or both eyes can be affected and it’s more common in people between 20 and 40 years. Men are usually more likely to develop a pterygium than women.
Diagnosing a pterygium is usually straightforward using a slit lamp at a regular eye examination
Eye drops may be used to treat symptoms, such as inflammation, mild pain, itching or a feeling of having grit in the eye. Treatment for a minor irritation includes eye drops or ointments that help to lubricate and soothe the cornea. In more severe cases, you may be prescribed a short course of steroid eye drops.
Once the growth spreads across the cornea or causes other problems, surgery is usually recommended to avoid complications and loss of vision. Using modern micro-surgical techniques, the surgeon will carefully remove the pterygium and replace it with a graft of healthy tissue, which is fixed into place. There is a chance that the condition may recur following surgery, but the process of grafting helps to prevent this.
When outdoors, wear good-quality, wrap-around sunglasses as recommended by an optometrist. A wide-brimmed hat will also protect your eyes from sun and wind exposure.