What is a Pterygium?

A pterygium is a fleshy, benign growth of the conjunctiva (the clear tissue that lines the inside of your eyelid and covers the white part of your eye). Pterygium is also known as “surfer’s eye” and is most often seen in people aged 20-40 who spend a lot of time outdoors. It starts as a small bump on the conjunctiva that grows across the white part of the eye. Pterygiums can cause itching, redness and irritation, and can interfere with vision if they grow large enough.

Symptoms of Pterygium

Signs and symptoms of pterygium may include:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Clear film or patch on the surface of the eye
  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Dryness in the affected eye

Risk Factors for Pterygium

Anyone who is exposed to the sun and wind can potentially develop pterygium, but it is more common in people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Other factors that can increase risk include:

  • Living in a sunny climate or at high altitudes
  • Eye or eyelid irritation
  • Working outdoors for a long time
  • Participating in water sports such as surfing, swimming, sailing, and water skiing
  • Having a family history of pterygium

Treatment of Pterygium

Treatment for a pterygium depends on the size and location of the growth, as well as any symptoms that are present. Your doctor may recommend the following treatments to help control symptoms:

  • Artificial tears: to lubricate the eye and reduce irritation.
  • Topical anti-inflammatory medications: to reduce inflammation and irritation.
  • Eye patches: to cover the affected eye and protect it from further irritation.

If the pterygium interferes with vision or causes too much discomfort, your doctor may suggest surgical removal. This operation is typically successful and may need to be repeated if the pterygium returns.