Often people who work outdoors will look into the mirror to find a small area on their eye, towards their nose, that looks like a thick, often yellow tinted, area of tissue. Most of the time this is a begin area of growth called pterygium, but what exactly is a pterygium?
What is a pterygium?
A pterygium is tissue that grows on the surface of the eye, usually extending from the nose side of the conjunctiva to the center of the cornea. A pterygium can be flat, resting against the cornea, or a raised area of growth, often appearing slightly yellow in color.
What are the symptoms associated with pterygium?
People who have a pterygium growth usually complain a wide range of symptoms. Blurred vision is a common complaint should the growth extend far enough on to the cornea, along with redness, irritated feeling, and itching. On occasion if the growth is mild and flat a person my not experience any symptoms. Those who have an advance pterygium may find that their vision is skewed or distorted as the growth pulls on the cornea.
What causes a pterygium?
The most common risk factor for pterygium is extended exposure to ultraviolet light. This is especially true of people who live in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Since more men than women make their livings outdoors, males tend to run a higher risk than women, however women who work outdoors for extended amounts of time are still at great risk for developing a pterygium. It has been shown that pterygia have a genetic link that appears to make family members of those with the growth at a slightly higher risk.
What is the prognosis for a person with a pterygium?
Typically, left alone, a pterygium will continue to grow and may cause more visual disruption and eye discomfort. If the growth spreads across the front of the eye, some damage to the cornea may occur.
What is the treatment for a pterygium?
With a mild to moderate pterygium often the treatments are noting more than just recommending that the person wear sunglasses when outdoors along with using artificial tears bought over-the-counter to fight any irritation a patient may experience.
With moderate to advanced should the patient not be interested in surgical correction an ointment may be prescribed along with a prescription anti-inflammatory eye drop to keep the eye comfortable from the elevated growth rubbing on the inside of the eyelids.
Since an advanced pterygium may begin to interfere with a person’s vision, typically the choices are to continue to allow the growth or have it surgically removed by a corneal specialist. The surgery is done on an outpatient basis with a small out of post-operative care. While the surgery is safe all instructions from the surgeon should be followed and anyone seeking to have the surgery should explore all risks and benefits with their ophthalmologist.
Any growth seen on the eyes should be evaluated as soon as possible and no diagnosis should be made unless done so by a licensed medical ophthalmologist. If it is found that a patient has a pterygium it is comforting to know that it is a fairly common with proven treatments.