A pterygium (ter-idge-eeum) is a triangular shaped lump of tissue which grows from the conjunctiva (the thin membrane which covers the white part of the eye) onto the cornea (the clear central part of the eye). They often occur in both eyes, most commonly in the corner near the nose. A pterygium is not a cancer. They are not dangerous, however if they actively grow across too far they can start to distort and impede vision, by blocking light entering the pupil. They will often get inflamed and swollen with exposure to wind and sun, and will cause red eyes.
Pterygium are caused by high exposure to UV light and hot, dry, windy environments. They are very common in our local Gold Coast climate, especially among outdoors enthusiasts like surfers.
Your Envision Optical optometrist will carefully assess the surface of your eyes with our slit lamp biomicroscopes and if pterygia are found then photographs will be taken of them to monitor for any change.
The best way to reduce your risk of pterygium is to protect your eyes from UV radiation and wear sunglasses or Transitions lenses when outdoors. We recommend Barz surf goggles to protect your eyes when surfing. UV radiation can also cause cataracts and skin cancers around the eyes and contribute to macular degeneration. If the pterygium is not actively growing then wearing sunglasses and protecting the eyes can often stabilize the progression. If the pterygium is stable and not threatening vision then annual observation is fine.
If the pterygium is growing too far across the cornea and interfering with vision, or if it is constantly inflamed and sore, then referral for surgical removal will be recommended. This is a relatively minor procedure done under local anaesthesia in a day theatre.