Pterygium, What is it? How is it treated?

This article is not meant to replace the advice of your GP or eye specialist. A common eye surface problem in sunny country’s is something called a pterygium. This is a skin growth over the surface of the eye-ball on the inner aspect of the white of the eye. It is common in people who have done lots of water-sports in their lives. It is sometimes referred to as “surfers eye”. There is a genetic tendency too, so it often runs in families. The growth is not cancerous, but can cause a lot of hassles for the eye. It leads to the eye being dry and irritable. The eyes often look blood shot especially in the inner corner. It is advisable that you seek the advice of an eye specialist if you have a pterygium as to help you to decide whether conservative treatments or surgical removal is the best course of action for your eye. Surgery is very successful, although the recovery can take a few weeks.


Although ultraviolet radiation from the sun appears to be the primary cause for the development and growth of pterygia, dust and wind are sometimes implicated too, as is dry eye disease.

Pterygia usually develop in 30- to 50-year-olds, and these bumps on the eyeball rarely are seen in children. Having light skin and light eyes may put you at increased risk of getting a pterygium.

Signs And Symptoms

Pterygia usually occur on the side of the eye closer to the nose, but they can also develop on the side closer to the ear as well and can affect one eye or both eyes.

Many people with mild surfer’s eye may not experience symptoms or require treatment. But large or growing pterygia often cause a gritty, itchy or burning sensation or the feeling something is “in” the eye (called a foreign body sensation). Also, these pterygia often become inflamed, causing unattractive red eyes.

If a pterygium significantly invades the cornea, it can distort the shape of the front surface of the eye, causing astigmatism and higher-order aberrations that affect vision.

Sometimes people confuse pterygia with eye growths called pingueculae, but they are different.

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