What is a Pterygium?
Eye Matters
September 18, 2009
What is a Pterygium?

A pterygium is an abnormal piece of flesh usually triangular in shape that grows on the eyeball and slowly extends on to the cornea of the eye. It is not cancerous.{{more}} However, if its growth continues, the pterygium can interfere with vision. A Pterygium is not to be mistaken for a cataract. A cataract is a cloudiness of the natural lens of the eye and is located INSIDE the eye. A Pterygium is a growth ON the OUTER SURFACE of the eyeball.

What causes Pterygium

People who live under extreme dry dusty and sunny conditions are more prone to have pterygia (plural for pterygium). This is especially so for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Ultraviolet light exposure and windy conditions are known to be causes of pterygia.

Symptoms Of Pterygium

If the pterygium is small, there may be hardly any symptoms, but if it grows bigger or larger it can cause an unevenness on the eyeball that feels like a foreign body when blinking.

The normal tear film cannot coat the eye evenly, causing further dryness and often times a gritty or sandy feeling in the eye.

If left to grow on to the cornea too long, pterygia tend to induce astigmatism as they can change the shape of the cornea. This makes correction with glasses extremely difficult.

How are Pterygia treated?

Surgical excision of the pterygium is usually indicated if the pterygium has crossed over at least one third of the cornea or if it interferes with your vision. Also if you want to wear contact lenses and have a pterygium, it will have to be removed to facilitate the fitting of the contact lens.

Sometimes even small pterygias are removed if they cause extreme discomfort or are repeatedly inflamed. Some people elect to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. It must be said that fewer than 1/3 of all pterygia have a tendency to reoccur. In such cases, a different surgical approach is indicated.

If, however, the pterygium is not causing any problems and there are none of the symptoms previously mentioned, then surgery is not necessary. Lubrication with artificial tears help to relieve the gritty sensations. In cases of inflammation, anti inflammatory eye drops may suffice.

Next week we will discuss the surgical procedure itself. Until then. Have a great weekend.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: Beachmont@gmail.com

Tel: 784 456-1210