Pterygium – what causes it and how to treat it?

Pterygium, also known as surfer’s eye, is a growth of the conjunctiva that is often shaped like a wedge and usually forms on the side near your nose or towards the pupil’s area. In most cases it doesn’t cause problems or requires special treatment unless it interferes with the vision and has to be removed.

What are the causes?

There are a few things that make you more likely to develop pterygium such as:

- strong exposure to UV Light

- Constant contact with irritants to the eye like dust, smoke, sand

- Dry eye syndrome

There is no exact cause that is known but one of the main explanations to the problem appearing is too much exposure to UV Light. Being exposed to the sun without protection causes the eyes to get dry, gritty and easily irritable. Pterygium is noticed to occur more often in people who live in warm climates and spend a lot of time outside in windy and sunny environments as you are most likely to get it if you live near the equator and are a man between the ages of 20 and 40.

What are the symptoms?

Pterygium doesn’t always come with symptoms and if it does they are usually mild.
The common symptoms of the condition are blurred vision, irritation and redness as there may also be a burning like sensation or itchiness. If a pterygium grows big enough to cover the cornea, it can cause problems with the vision, as a larger pterygium can cause the feeling of having a foreign object in the eye and create problems when it comes to wearing contact lenses, as it will cause discomfort.
Pterygiums are usually diagnosed by their distinctive appearance and symptoms, but in the early stages there may be confusion and the condition can be mistaken as a pinguecula, which is another growth that affects the conjunctiva. Make sure to visit a professional if you notice any symptoms so you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment!

How to treat it?

In most cases a pterygium doesn’t require any treatment, unless its causing discomfort and interfering your vision. Your doctor may require you to have occasional check-ups in order to keep a close eye on the growth. In cases the pterygium is causing a lot of irritation you may be prescribed eye drops or ointments with corticosteroids in them, in order to reduce inflammation. And if eye drops and ointments fail to provide the needed relief and the pterygium grows large and block the vision than you will most likely be recommended surgery. Surgery is also done when the condition causes astigmatism which can results in blurry vision.

Eye conditionsEye health