A pterygium is a fleshy, triangular or wing-shaped growth of the eye. It usually occurs on the inner corner of the eye but can also appear on the outer corner. It is a slow-growing, benign lesion, and is mostly harmless. However, a pterygium may sometimes grow over the cornea. In rare cases, it can grow large enough to cover the central cornea and affect vision.
The signs and symptoms of a pterygium include:
You should use protective sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) ray protection when outdoors or driving, and headgear with wide brims when exposed to very strong sun-light.
What causes pterygium?The exact cause of pterygium is still not known, and is thought to be due to multiple factors interacting together. However, UV light from the sun has been proven to be the most likely contributing factor. Exposure to long-hours of sunlight and dry, dusty conditions also appear to play an important role.
Diagnosis is made upon examination by an ophthalmologist.
In early cases when there are no symptoms and the pterygium is not cosmetically significant, it can be left alone. When the pterygium causes irritation, redness or discomfort, artificial tears can help moisturise the eye and relieve the discomfort. Eye drops, however, will not affect the growth of the pterygium.
When the pterygium affects vision, surgical removal is recommended. The surgery involves removing the fleshy growth and transplanting a translucent patch of conjunctiva over the surgical site, to reduce the risk of the pterygium growing back again (recurrence). This patch of conjunctiva is usually from one’s own eye (a conjunctival autograft), and the autograft can be secured with sutures or with use of fibrin glue (sutureless).
Complications of pterygium surgery are uncommon, but can include infection, scarring or thinning of the surgical site. The most common complication is recurrence. Fortunately, the risk of pterygium recurrence following surgical removal and a conjunctival autograft is low (less than 5%), and is our gold standard for pterygium surgery.