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What is, and What Causes Pterygium?

Part of a healthy lifestyle is getting out in the great outdoors. No matter the time of year, location, or climate, exposure to the elements is both necessary and inevitable. Sun, wind, dust, and humidity are likely to be experienced when you spend a great deal of time outside, especially if you are a recreational enthusiast or your job requires working outside. These types of weather conditions can cause vision changes that include dry or gritty feeling eyes, redness, burning, blurry vision, stringy discharge, and excessive tearing or evaporation of tears. Eye growths can occur due to prolonged time exposed to UV light or extremely dry or humid conditions. Pterygium is one such specific growth. 

What is, and what causes, pterygium? Pterygium is a non-cancerous, wedge-shaped growth of fleshy tissue that starts on the conjunctiva, clear tissue of the eye, that can spread to the cornea, the outer layer of the eye. Nicknamed “surfer’s eye” it is most common in people who spend a lot of time in the sun. Although the exact cause is undetermined it is accepted that the combination of sun, wind, and dust are responsible for its gradual development. Pterygium can affect one or both eyes; if pterygium affects both eyes it is called bilateral pterygium. Anyone can develop pterygium; however, it is rare in children and most often affects those over the age of 80 years old who live near the equator. About 12% of the population worldwide develops pterygium. 

An ophthalmologist can diagnose pterygium with a slit lamp test. Treatments for pterygium include eye drops and ointments to eliminate redness and relieve irritation in minor cases. Although surgery is uncommon, it may be necessary if eye drops do not relieve symptoms or if the pterygium grows large enough to block vision. Pterygium may also create astigmatism by pulling on the cornea and changing its curvature. Unfortunately, pterygium can still grow back even after surgery so trying prescribed steroid drops and avoiding sun exposure is the first and best course of treatment. 

Pterygium is not a serious eye condition but if it increases in size, it can block or blur vision impacting your day to day. If you notice a growth on your eye or are concerned with the health of your eyes due to long term UV light exposure or harsh climate conditions, make an appointment with Skyline Vision Clinic for a comprehensive eye exam. Call 719-630-3937 or schedule online at WEBSITE