What is a Pterygium?
An ocular pterygium is a pinkish triangular tissue growth that develops on surface membrane of the eye (conjunctiva). The term Pterygium (pronounced tur-IJ-ee-um) comes from the Greek word “pterygion” meaning “little-wing” and has been described since 1000 BC.
This fibrovascular thickening usually forms on the side closest to your nose and grows toward the pupil area. It can be in one or both eyes. Although it is a benign growth, it can progress causing the following symptoms:
• inflammation, including bloodshot whites of the eye on the side with the pterygium
• itching and burning sensations
• Teary eyes
• Mild eye pain
• Problems with contact lens wear
• blurry vision if the pterygium grows across the cornea (causing astigmatism)
The causes of pterygia are not completely understood, but certain factors do play a role:
1) Long term exposure to UV
2) Dry, windy, dusty, smoky environments
3) Prolonged environmental ocular irritants
4) Tear film anomalies
5) Age and genetic factors
6) Other risk factors like immunological mechanisms and viruses .
Once a pterygium has developed, it seldomly disappears by itself. It is best to try to prevent and retard the progression of its growth by:
1) Wearing sunglasses that block UVA and UVB
2) Lubrication drops to rinse and keep the ocular surface moist
3) Omega 3 and Vit A, C and E supplements
If you experience frequent flare-ups or red eyes, a specialist may need to prescribe non/steroidal anti-inflammatory drops and evaluate if they need to be surgically removed.
Lastly, a malignant conjunctival growth can sometimes be confused for a pterygium. An ocular surface squamous neoplasia (OSSN) often looks similar. OSSN is often referred to as “skin cancer” of the eye and is the most common tumor growth of the eye. It often appears closer to the color of the eye than from the nasal side and is more” bumpy” and oval in shape. A specialist needs to differentiate on the basis of bloodvessel appearance and biopsy. OSSN more often shows “zigzag vessel patterns”. With the pterygium, it showed “straight vessel patterns” signifying unbending stretched vessels.
It is therefore advisable that you visit your Optometrist to see if a referral to a Specialist may be indicated. Let’s help you take care of your eyes. – The Optirite Team