A pterygium is a raised, whitish wedge-shaped growth of tissue from the white of the eye (the conjunctiva) that extends onto the cornea. Pterygia are benign lesions that can be found on either side of the cornea. The majority of pterygia are located on the side of the eye closest to the nose.
What causes a pterygium?
More commonly, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light (UV exposure) may contribute to the formation of a pterygium. Pterygia are more often seen in people from tropical climates near the equator, but can be found in others as well -- including those who spend a great deal of time outdoors or those exposed to dry and dusty environments. Wind, dust, smoke, dirt and air pollution can contribute to the formation of a pterygium.
What is the treatment?
If a pterygium is small but becomes inflamed, your optometrist may recommend a brief therapy of a mild steroid eye drop. If these drops are recommended, you will be monitored closely to ensure that you do not develop side effects from the use of these medications. In some cases, your optometrist may recommend surgical removal of the tissue.
Removal is advised if the pterygium is growing far enough onto the cornea to disrupt your line of vision or if they cause discomfort similar to the sensation of a persistent foreign body in the eye, or if they are constantly inflamed and irritating. Some pterygia may ultimately grow onto the cornea in such a way that they can pull on the surface of the cornea and change the focus of the eye, causing astigmatism. In these cases, removing the pterygium can correct or significantly decrease the astigmatism.
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