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What is Pterygium of the Eye?

In the field of Ophthalmology there sure are some funky words. One of them is Pterygium. Before we get up close and personal with this condition, let’s learn how to pronounce Pterygium.

Ok, now that you can say it, what IS Pterygium?

What is Pterygium of the Eye?

In plain language, a Pterygium is a growth on the eyeball. More accurately, it’s an overgrowth of pinkish tissue that starts in the white of the eye (the sclera) and grows over the clear covering (cornea) that protects the coloured part of the eye (the iris).

What is pterygium? Anatomy of the eye


What Causes Pterygium of the Eye?


The most significant factor contributing to the development of Pterygia (Pterygia is the plural form of Pterygium) is UV radiation from the sun.

Because it’s commonly seen in people who spend a lot of time outdoors, Pterygium is also known as “surfer’s eye”.


Other factors that may contribute to the development of a Pterygium include:


* Dust and wind exposure
* Dry eye disease
* Age – the risk increases as you get older
* Pollen
* Sandy environments.


    What are the Symptoms of Pterygium?

    Usually, a Pterygium will start to form in the corner of the eye closest to the nose, though Pterygia can also begin in the outer corner of the eye. Sometimes they can form on both eyes at once.


    If you have a Pterygium you may experience the following symptoms:


    * Bloodshot eyes, especially near the growth
    * Itchy eyes
    * Feeling like there is something in your eye like grit or dust
    * Red, inflamed eyes.


      What Does Pterygium Look Like?

      If you have a Pterygium, you will notice a triangular or wedge-shaped cloudy growth covering part of your iris (the coloured part of the eye). The images below show Pterygia:

      What is Pterygium of the eye? Large pterygium

      What is Pterygium (conjunctiva)?

       What is pterygium of the eye? Eye disease Australia

      How Serious is Pterygium of the Eye?

      The good news is that a Pterygium is not malignant. It is a localised tissue growth on the eyeball.


      The bad news is that despite being a benign tumour, a Pterygium is not something you should ignore.


      In most cases you will at minimum experience discomfort. Pterygia can have more serious consequences including blurry vision and can even permanently disfigure the eye. In rarer cases it can lead to scarring on the cornea, which can lead to loss of vision and convert to Squamous Cell Carcinoma which is malignant and can metastasise (spread).


      A Pterygium may also distort the front surface of the eye, which can affect the way your eye focuses light (astigmatism). This can cause blurry vision, headaches, fatigue and reduced vision capacity. You may require glasses, contacts or surgery to correct your vision.


      Treatment of Pterygium


      In the first instance, see your GP or Optometrist. They may then refer you to an Ophthalmologist for treatment.


      Treatments for Pterygia depend on the severity of the growth and the impact on your vision and day-to-day comfort. Treatment may include:


      * Drops or ointments to soothe irritation – These are designed to lubricate the eye and reduce inflammation
      * Surgery – under local anaesthetic and grafting from elsewhere in the eye.


      Your Ophthalmologist will recommend the most appropriate approach for you but UV protection is still necessary part of the treatment to prevent progression and post surgical recurrence.


      How To Prevent Pterygium


      The most effective way to guard against the onset of a Pterygium is to wear protective sunglasses outdoors. Your sunglasses should be wraparound so that UV light cannot enter from the sides – this is important.


      The right protective sunglasses will also have lenses that filter out UV rays, coated lenses so that dangerous light rays can exit without bouncing back into your eye, and lenses that filter out polarised light.


      If you spend a lot of time outdoors, high-quality protective sunglasses are essential for you. This includes:


      * Surfers
      * Sports coaches and team members
      * Outdoor fitness enthusiasts
      * Labourers
      * Animal walkers and trainers
      * Delivery and truck drivers
      * Nature lovers
      * Travellers
      * Beachgoers and swimmers
      * All children and teenagers.


      This list is by no means exhaustive. Really, in a country like Australia, unless you live 100% underground, you’re on this list!


      As Ophthalmologists, we care about Australia’s eye health. We designed Beamers Protective Sunglasses to help prevent conditions like Pterygium. Get Beamers Sunglasses for your whole family here, and give your kids and yourself the best chance of a lifetime of healthy vision.