The white of the eye is covered by a transparent membrane called the conjunctiva. Every so often a small segment of the conjunctiva will undergo a degenerative process and create a growth called a pinguecula. If the pinguecula continues to grow it may extend onto the cornea (the clear front window of the eye). At this point the growth is now called a pterygium.
Once on the cornea a pterygium has the potential to induce irregular astigmatism (which will distort your vision) or may actually continue to grow and encroach the patient’s visual axis. A pterygium most often occurs on the inner corner of the eye, but it can also appear on the outer corner. Most commonly, it is found in people who spend a great deal of time outdoors, especially in sunny/warm climates. Long-term exposure to sunlight and chronic eye irritation from dry and dusty conditions often play an important causal role.
When a pterygium becomes red and irritated, eye drops or ointments may be used to help reduce the inflammation. In the long-run the only true cure is through surgical excision. Despite proper surgical removal, a pterygium may reoccur, most often in young people. At the time of surgery, our surgeons utilize special surgical techniques and medication to reduce the recurrence rate. Afterwards, protecting the eyes from excessive ultraviolet light with proper sunglasses, avoiding dry and dusty conditions, along with the use of artificial tears will help prevent the pterygium from reoccurring.