What is Pterygium?
Pterygium or “surfer’s eye” is an elevated, wedge-shaped growth on the eyeball that begins on the white of the eye (sclera) and can extend to the cornea. Although benign, pterygium can become quite bothersome if left untreated.
The pterygium can vary in appearance. It can range from a small hard-to-see tissue mass to a large, red and very noticeable growth. Because pterygium varies in appearance it may be yellow, gray, white, pink, red, or colorless. It may even have blood vessels. If the pterygium grows over the cornea (outer surface), your eye may be in serious harm. Surgical removal will be required. A patient may require multiple surgeries to completely remove the growth, restoring vision. Most patients with pterygium contact ophthalmologists either due to concern regarding the appearance of the lesion, or because the lesion is irritating the eye or it is adversely affecting vision.
The eye doctors at Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons have years of experience treating patients with pterygium. Here, we explain what causes the eye condition.
What Causes Pterygium?
Ultraviolet light from the sun is thought to be the primary cause of pterygium. Dust and wind are also linked to the condition, as is dry eye. Research shows that pterygium is most common among people between the ages of 30 and 50. Individuals with light skin and light eyes also have a higher risk of developing pterygium.
Because UV light is thought to be the most common cause of pterygium, protecting your eyes from the sun is essential in reducing your risk of developing a growth. Wearing sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection protects your eyes from sun damage, as well as from dust, wind and other irritants. If you have chronic dry eye, we recommend you manage symptoms to reduce your chance of developing pterygium.
Pterygium Surgery with Berks Eye
While small pterygium growths can be treated with lubricants or mild steroid eye drops, growths large enough to cause problems with vision may require surgery. Pterygium surgery may sound intimidating but it is highly safe and successful. The eye is numbed during surgery to ensure your full comfort. The growth is gently extracted from the eye. In some cases, our surgeons may transplant a thin piece of healthy tissue onto the affected area. This technique helps reduce the chance of recurrence.
Surgery is usually completed in 30 minutes or less, and recovery lasts a few days. Continued exposure to UV light after surgery is a leading cause of recurrence. For this reason, you should wear sunglasses that offer 100 percent protection and take other precautions to protect your eyes from the sun after surgery.
Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons has diagnosed and treated hundreds of cases of pterygium. To learn more about pterygium, please schedule an appointment by contacting our Wyomissing office today.