Pterygium is a pinkish, triangular tissue growth that develops on the conjunctiva ( clear, thin, transparent tissue that covers the white portion of the eye called sclera) of the eye that extends towards the cornea. Cornea is a clear, transparent front portion of the eye.
It is non cancerous and usually grows slowly with time. At some point, it may stop growing and start growing. With time, it can progress in such a way that it begins to cover the pupil of the eye which interferes with vision. The plural of pterygium is Pterygia.
It is also known as a surfer’s eye. It may develop in one or both eyes. Pterygium generally develops in the nasal side of the eyes as compared to the temporal side. Initially, it may be small but can grow larger and may interfere with an individual vision.
The exact cause of pterygium is unknown. But it is believed that this condition is linked to excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun. It is most commonly seen in those who spent a lot of time outdoors with excessive exposure to sunlight.
Similarly, people who get regular or long term exposure to windy, smoke or dusty environments are also at higher risk to develop this condition.
Furthermore, Genetic predisposition factors may play an important role to develop this condition.
In the early stages of pterygium, an individual may not experience any symptoms. However it can be a matter of cosmetic concern.
It is usually painless but it can cause irritation to the eyes and blood vessels can be seen easily.
If it continues to grow, an individual can experience the following symptoms.
- Eye Irritation
- Foreign body sensation in the eyes
- Burning sensation or itching on the eye surface
- Can become inflamed
If it spreads to the cornea, it can distort the shape of cornea that causes astigmatism and higher order aberration and thus affects vision too.
Eye care professionals will diagnose this condition by performing physical examination using a slit lamp. This will allow them to see your eyes in detail with help of proper magnification and lighting.
They will ask you to share with them the symptoms that you are facing. Similarly you should let them know about family history of eye health.
Many people seem to be confused about pterygium and pinguecula. Both pterygium and pinguecula are conjunctival growth that forms on the surface of eye. They both typically seen adjacent to cornea at 3 o’clock position , 9 o’clock position or both.
Though they seems similar in terms of appearance, causes and symptoms ; they are two different conditions.
Pinguecula is simply accumulation of conjunctival tissues at nasal or temporal junction of sclera and cornea. It is just yellowish bump on eye or yellowish whitish mass within bulbar conjunctiva.
Since, it only occurs on the conjunctiva and won’t grow across cornea so vision problems is not seen. But sometimes it may develop into pterygium.
Treatment of pterygium
Basically, treatment depends on the size and extent of pterygium . In mild cases, generally treatment is not required. But this condition should be properly checked time and again so as to monitor it is causing any other visual problems.
In case if this condition causes eyes to become red, inflamed and irritated, Your eye care doctor may prescribe certain eye drops to temporarily reduce inflammation.
Furthermore, Surgery is the final treatment option of this condition.
In some individuals, this can be the matter of cosmetic issues while in others there can be visual issues. Thus in such conditions, doctors may advise for surgery.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should do surgery before pterygium grows across the cornea. If not, it may scar cornea and may cause permanent vision loss.
After surgery, eye doctors will prescribe certain eye drops for at least one month. Along with eye drops, you need to wear sunglasses so as to protect your eyes from UV rays to minimize the risk of recurrence.
Since prevention is better than cure. Protect your eyes from UV rays by wearing special sunglasses.
If possible , you should try to avoid exposure to sunlight or other environmental factors like wind, dirt, dust and so on that causes pterygium. Make sure you wear special sunglasses that protect from UV rays while working outdoors.
If you already had developed pterygium then try to limit the exposure to those factors that cause the condition to slow down it’s growth.