Pterygium is a non-cancerous growth of tissue on the white of the eye. The disease is most common in people who work outdoors or otherwise spend a lot of time outside, such as playing sports or engaging in certain hobbies like gardening or surfing. Pterygium is very common, but rarely affects vision.
In most cases, pterygium only affects one eye, although it is not unusual for patients to present with pterygium of both eyes known as bilateral pterygium. Usually, growths appear to be pink and fleshy and will grow over time. Often it stops growing after reaching a certain size, although there have been cases of pterygium growths covering the pupil and obstructing vision.
Aside from potential, but unlikely vision loss, pterygium is primarily an annoyance similar to having an object, such as sand or an eyelash in the eye. Growths may also be unsightly and may begin to cause inflammation as they enlarge. Some patients report burning, itching or gritty sensations as well.
Depending on the size and location of the pterygium growth, the condition may require pterygium treatment or surgery or it may not require any treatment at all. In most cases, lubricating drops, vasoconstrictor drops or steroid drops can provide relief. Surgery is typically reserved for individuals with pterygium growths that have not responded to less invasive treatments and who are experiencing interference in vision.
There are certain risk factors associated with the development of pterygium growths. Certain precautions can lower the risk of developing pterygium, such as avoiding eye irritants and protecting the eyes from excessive or prolonged exposure to UV rays. Simply making a habit to wear UVA and UVB-blocking sunglasses on a daily basis can significantly lower one’s risk of developing pterygium.