Published: Feb. 9, 2012
Updated: Feb. 9, 2012
Pterygium is a condition that affects the cornea and conjunctiva. It is marked by a thickening or growth on the outer coating of the eye (conjunctiva).
The growth is non-cancerous and typically starts in the inner corner of the eye.
While the cause is unknown, long-term exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays are thought to be a contributing factor. Dusty, sandy, and windy environments may also be a cause.
Over time, with chronic sun exposure, the conjunctival tissue grows into a pinguecula. Once it reaches onto the cornea, it becomes a pterygium.
This condition can cause visual impairment due to irregular astigmatism and scarring. It can also be a cosmetic burden once it involves the cornea.
Pterygium may result in red, inflamed eyes and a burning sensation, but many people with pterygium may not experience any symptoms.
Treatment is not always required. For smaller growths, your eye doctor may prescribe artificial tears, anti-allergy drops, or mild steroid drops.
In cases when the pterygium is large enough to interfere with vision, surgery may be needed to remove the growth.
Once removed, experts recommend wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to lower the risk of the condition recurring.
Duke Eye Center offers treatment for pterygium, pinguecula, episcleritis, and related eye problems at locations convenient to Durham, Raleigh, Cary, and other areas of North Carolina.