A pterygium is a growth of the conjunctiva or mucous membrane that covers the white part of the eye over the cornea. The cornea is the clear front covering of the eye. This benign or noncancerous growth is often shaped like a wedge. The growth could show up in one eye or both. When it affects both, it’s known as bilateral pterygium.
A pterygium starts as redness and thickening in the corner of the eye — usually the corner closest to the nose. The growth can extend across the surface of the eye towards the iris (colored part of the eye).
Often a person may notice the formation of a pterygium but it may not experience any other symptoms. If other symptoms are experienced, they may include;
- Eye redness and inflammation
- A gritty feeling in the eye
- A feeling that there is a foreign object in the eye
- Dryness of the eye due to reduced tear production
- Blurring of vision if the corneal surface is altered or “warped”
- Obscuring of vision if growth encroaches across the pupil
The exact cause of pterygium is unknown. One explanation is that too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can lead to these growths. It occurs more often in people who live in warm climates and spend a lot of times outdoors in sunny or windy environments.
People whose eyes are exposed to certain elements on a regular basis have a higher risk of developing this condition.
These elements include;
Treatment depends on the size and nature of the pterygium, the symptoms and whether vision is affected. There are two main ways a pterygium can be treated.
Medication – Short-term use of topical corticosteroid eye drops may be used to reduce redness and inflammation.
Surgery – Surgery may be recommended when vision is affected or symptoms are particularly problematic. During surgery, the pterygium is carefully removed and a section of the conjunctiva is taken from under the eyelid and is grafted onto the area where the pterygium was.
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