Closeup of Pterygium

What is a Pterygium?

Pterygium is a benign growth of the conjunctiva (lining of the white part of the eye) that grows into the cornea, which covers the iris (colored part of the eye). It can eventually lead to impaired vision.

Patients with pterygium often first notice the condition because of the appearance of a lesion on their eye. Other symptoms include dryness, redness, irritation, inflammation, and tearing. In more severe cases, the pterygium grows over the pupil and limits vision.

Although the causes of pterygium are not entirely known, it is believed to be caused mainly by exposure to ultraviolet light. Prolonged exposure causes the conjunctiva to thicken, eventually leading to a pterygium.

The most common pterygium treatment is artificial tear drops to reduce dryness and irritation and the use of sunglasses. In more severe cases or when vision is impaired, surgery may be recommended. Surgery is the only definitive way to remove a pterygium, but it requires long-term follow up and there is a risk the pterygium can grow back and even become more aggressive.