Eye Conditions

Pterygium

What is a pterygium?

A pterygium (pronounced tur-ij-ee-um), is a fleshy overgrowth on the surface of the eye and commonly occurs in people who spend a lot of time outdoors in sunny and windy conditions (hence the nickname “surfer’s eye”).
 

    The fleshy tissue is often triangular, pink and fine blood vessels may be visible.
     

      One or both eyes can be affected and a pterygium can grow from either the inner or outer corner of the eye, although the inner corner is most common.
       

        Over time, a pterygium can grow across the cornea (the clear outer layer over your iris and pupil) and can then cause vision problems if left untreated.

What are the symptoms?

As a pterygium is usually painless, and it can go unnoticed for a long time. If symptoms do occur, they can include:

 

  • > Irritation or itchiness
  • > Redness or inflammation
  • > Mild pain
  • > Grittiness or burning sensation
  • > Feeling of something in your eye (foreign body sensation)
  • > Bloodshot whites around the pterygium
  • > Obscured or blurred vision

What is a pterygium?

A pterygium (pronounced tur-ij-ee-um), is a fleshy overgrowth on the surface of the eye and commonly occurs in people who spend a lot of time outdoors in sunny and windy conditions (hence the nickname “surfer’s eye”).
 

    The fleshy tissue is often triangular, pink and fine blood vessels may be visible.
     

      One or both eyes can be affected and a pterygium can grow from either the inner or outer corner of the eye, although the inner corner is most common.
       

        Over time, a pterygium can grow across the cornea (the clear outer layer over your iris and pupil) and can then cause vision problems if left untreated.

What are the symptoms?

As a pterygium is usually painless, and it can go unnoticed for a long time. If symptoms do occur, they can include:

 

  • > Irritation or itchiness
  • > Redness or inflammation
  • > Mild pain
  • > Grittiness or burning sensation
  • > Feeling of something in your eye (foreign body sensation)
  • > Bloodshot whites around the pterygium
  • > Obscured or blurred vision

Treatment of a Pterygium

Surgery is the only way to remove a pterygium. However the recommended treatment will depend upon how advanced the pterygium is.

It is recommended to remove a pterygium before it grows across the cornea as otherwise it may leave a scar which can permanently impact your vision.

During surgery, the pterygium will be carefully removed and a section of your healthy conjunctiva is then grafted onto the affected area. Pterygium removal surgery is performed using a local anaesthetic and takes approximately 30 minutes to perform.

Treatment options that can provide relief from symptoms, and stop or slow the growth of a pterygium include:

  • Protection from UV exposure
  • Lubricating drops or ointments
  • Steroid drops or ointments

Note that protection from UV exposure and any drops or ointments will not get rid of a pterygium, as they can only be removed surgically.

What is a pterygium? And what is pterygium removal surgery?

Who is at risk of developing a Pterygium?

The plural for pterygium is pterygia (“tur-ij-ee-ah”), and they are associated with the following risk factors:

 

  • – Ultra-violet (UV) Exposure – regular exposure to UV light is thought to be the main cause of a pterygium as they more commonly occur in those living in sunny areas or whose jobs or lifestyle exposes them to excessive amounts of sunlight.
  • – Environmental Irritants – extended and regular exposure to dry, dusty, sandy, polluted and/or windy conditions can also contribute to the development of a pterygium.
  • – Gender and Age – men are much more likely to develop a pterygium than women, and they are more common in people over the age of 40.

 

Pterygium Prevention – UV Protection

Wearing good quality sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outdoors is the best way to protect your eyes from UV light, which may help to slow or prevent the growth of a pterygium.

 

Top tips for finding the right sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV damage:

  • – See your local optometrist for the right sunglasses – they will be able to advise you on a pair which can provide adequate UV protection
  • Go for a close-fitting and wrap-around style to cover as much the eye area as possible
  • – Check the label for “sunglasses” or “special purpose sunglasses” and not “fashion spectacles”
  • – Check the label for Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1067

 

A quick tip: darker lenses doesn’t enhance UV protection, and polarized lenses cut glare, not UV, so always check the label.

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