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What is a pterygium?

Often referred to as “surfer’s eye,” pterygium is a pink, triangular tissue growth on the white part of the eye that extends to the cornea. While the growth itself is benign in nature, in some cases it can grow so large that it covers the pupil and obscures vision. Pterygium may occur in one or both eyes and can become inflamed, leading to redness and irritation.

What causes pterygium?

While the cause is not clear, evidence shows that their occurrence is related to long-term exposure to UV light and dust, and is most common in individuals who spend a lot of time outdoors. Therefore, prevention guidelines generally include wearing sunglasses and/or a wide-brimmed hat outdoors when in direct sunlight. Avoiding environmental eye irritants such as dust, smoke, and pollution is also recommended, while using artificial tears throughout the day may help prevent their formation or slow their growth.

How is pterygium treated?

While pterygium may be treated surgically, this is generally avoided so long as vision is not obstructed by the growth and the patient is not experiencing significant discomfort. Often, the condition will clear up on its own over time, although your eye doctor may prescribe corticosteroid eye drops in the short term to manage irritation and keep the eyes lubricated. If you and your doctor should decide that surgical removal is the right treatment for you, the procedure is relatively simple, taking no longer than 30 minutes to complete using local anaesthesia.