What is “pterygium”? Your guide to preventing, managing, and treating sun damage to the eyes
The surgeon at Orange County Eye Institute have considerable experience treating pterygium. While pterygium and related conditions may not require surgical intervention right away, monitoring is critical. This growth can affect the comfort, vision and health of your eyes.
Orange County and Southern California are fortunate to have so many sunny and pleasant days; however, sun exposure is the single most significant risk factor for this condition. In fact, pterygium is sometimes called “surfer’s eye” for this reason. Fittingly, other risk factors include:
- Exposure to dust, sand, wind, and other irritants
- Dry eye
Pterygium is also characterized by a whitish-pink, wedge-shaped, fleshy growth on the white of the eye (the conjunctiva). Pterygium owes its name to its triangular or wedge shape (“pterygos” is the Greek word for “wing”). This fleshy tissue can cause everything from mild to severe redness, swelling, itching, dryness, and decreased or blurry vision.
Sometimes, pterygium starts as yellow, bulging patches of tissue on the whites of the eyes. This growth, called a “pinguecula,” can evolve into a small or large pterygium. Smaller pterygiums may not produce any symptoms. But some can grow sufficiently large as to affect the cornea. When this happens, your visual acuity can be affected. The affected eye may be very uncomfortable and irritated. Contact lens wear can become intolerable. Likewise, large pterygium growths can be “cosmetically significant” very obvious in appearance.
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In these and other cases, removing the pterygium may be recommended. We can perform this procedure on an inpatient basis, with a localized anesthetic for comfort. A tiny bit of tissue may also be transferred to the treatment site. This step in the process helps to reduce the rate of recurrence. So, the pterygium is less likely to grow back.
You can prevent pterygium development, recurrence, or progression by protecting your eyes with:
- UVA-UVB sunglasses
- Brimmed hats
- Artificial tears
- Ocular lubricants
- Steroid eye drops (as prescribed)
For the health and beauty of your eyes, we encourage you to contact Orange County Eye Institute. Call (949) 441-5444 to schedule your appointment at our Laguna Hills location. All recommendations start with a thorough evaluation and consultation.
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