Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye) most often refers to a benign growth of the conjunctiva. A pterygium commonly grows from the nasal side of the sclera. It is usually present in thepalpebral fissure. It is associated with and thought to be caused by ultraviolet-light exposure (e.g., sunlight), low humidity, and dust. Growth has been known to be preceded with scleral trauma around the Palpebral comissure. The predominance of pterygia on the nasal side is possibly a result of the sun’s rays passing laterally through the cornea, where it undergoes refraction and becomes focused on the limbic area. Sunlight passes unobstructed from the lateral side of the eye, focusing on themedial limbus after passing through the cornea. On the contralateral (medial) side, however, the shadow of the nose medially reduces the intensity of sunlight focused on the lateral/temporal limbus.
Symptoms of Pterygium
Sometimes, a pterygium causes no symptoms other than its appearance. An enlarging pterygium, however, may cause redness and inflammation.
Symptoms of pterygium may include:
- Gritty feeling
- Sensation of a foreign body in the eye
- Blurred vision
Causes of Pterygium
It’s not clear what causes a pterygium to develop. But most experts believe that significant risk factors include:
- Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light
- Dry eye
- Irritants such as dust and wind
Pterygium occurrence is much greater among people who live near the equator. But it also can develop in anyone who lives in a sunny climate. It’s most often seen in young adults ages 20 to 40. It appears to be more common in men than in women.
Pterygium is often preceded by a related noncancerous condition called pinguecula (pin-WEK-yoo-la). This is a yellowish patch or bump on the conjunctiva near the cornea. The conjunctiva is the thin, moist membrane on the surface of the eye.
Treatment of Pterygium
See an ophthalmologist if you have symptoms of pterygium. He or she can diagnose the condition by examining the front part of your eye with a microscope called a slit lamp.
Pterygium usually doesn’t require treatment if symptoms are mild. If a temporary worsening of the inflamed condition causes redness or irritation, it can be treated with:
- Lubricating eyedrops or ointments, such as Blink or Refresh drops
- Occasional use of vasoconstrictor eyedrops, such as Naphcon A
- Short course of steroid eyedrops, such as FML or Lotemax
If the lesion causes persistent discomfort or interferes with vision, it can be surgically removed during an outpatient procedure. You and your doctor may also take into account appearance and the size of the pterygium when making a decision about surgery.