A pterygium is a wedge-shaped elevated growth on the cornea (the clear front window of the eye). It is a benign growth that starts on the sclera (the white part of the eye) and extends toward the center of the eye. It is a result of a process in which the conjunctiva grows into the cornea. It contains blood vessels and can form scar tissue that can permanently disfigure the eye.
Causes of Pterygium
The causes of pterygia are not totally understood. Long term exposure to UV-light (sunlight) and dry environmental conditions have been linked to their development. They seem to develop more often in people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Exposure to sun, wind, dust, and harsh climates are frequently correlated with pterygia. They also occur more often in men than women.
- Blurred vision
- Foreign body sensation
- Eye irritation
While the pterygium is growing, it becomes swollen and red. This growth process is slow, and it usually stabilizes without causing problems. Although the symptoms are not severe, growth over the central cornea may cause vision loss.
If the pterygium does not cause any noticeable symptoms, treatment is not necessary. Wearing protective sunglasses with side shields, wide-brimmed hats and using artificial tears may help prevent formation or stop their progression. While the growth is red and swollen, eye drops and ointments can be used to alleviate dryness and inflammation.
Once the pterygium invades the cornea and begins to threaten vision, it can be removed surgically. Surgery can also be performed for cosmetic reasons. However, pterygia have a tendency to return, especially in younger people. At times, dryness and irritation persists even after removal. Radiation and topical medications can be used to prevent recurrence.