Pterygium is characterized by a pink tissue growth on the sclera (the white part of the eye), which seems to be the result of chronic exposure to ultraviolet light. In fact, because many surfers suffer from pterygium, the condition is often called surfer’s eye. Pterygium is not cancerous and may continue to grow gradually or stop growing after a certain point. If symptoms are mild, the condition does not require treatment. However, if the condition starts to interfere with vision, treatment may become necessary.
Pterygium Cause and Symptoms
A pterygium is spurred on by exposure to the sun and wind. For this reason, the condition is often referred to as surfer's eye. Pterygia often cause a foreign body sensation and can become red and swollen. When a pterygium grows large enough, it can distort the shape of the eye, causing astigmatism and visual acuity problems.
Pterygium Diagnosis and Treatment
An eye care professional will make a diagnosis based on a close observation with a slit lamp. Pterygium treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, whether the pterygium is growing, and its causes. Mild cases can be treated with steroid eye drops. Severe cases require surgical removal, usually performed in the doctor's office with local anesthetics. To prevent regrowth, an eye care provider might perform an autologous conjunctival autografting.