A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva, the clear, thin tissue covering the white part of the eye. Pterygium can occur in one or both eyes. The growth itself appears wedge-shaped or wing-shaped, giving the disorder its name. Pterygion is the Greek word for “wing”.
Generally, pterygium causes no pain, but you may feel self-conscious about its appearance and wish to have it removed. Mild cases of pterygium can be removed safely under topical anesthetic. In other cases, the pterygium may grow onto the cornea and affect your vision, necessitating surgical removal.
At Patel Eye Associates in Edison, New Jersey, board-certified ophthalmologists Dr. Hitesh K. Patel and Dr. Himanshu S. Shah are highly skilled in evaluating and treating pterygium.
Pterygium Causes and Symptoms
The exact causes of pterygium are not well understood. Doctors do know that prolonged exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet light, may contribute to the formation of pterygium.
Individuals who experience chronic eye irritation due to working in windy, sandy, dry or dusty environments are more prone to develop this condition. For these reasons, many doctors caution pterygium patients to wear a hat and sunglasses outdoors and to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
Many individuals with pterygium experience no symptoms and require no medical treatment. For some patients, pterygium may become swollen or appear inflamed. For others, the area becomes thickened. It may cause a feeling of having a foreign body lodged in the eye.
Advanced pterygium can distort the corneal surface, leading to astigmatism.
Treatment is determined by the size of the pterygium and your symptoms. Dr. Patel and Dr. Shah will conduct a very thorough eye examination. They may prescribe an eye lubricant or steroid drops to reduce redness and swelling. If necessary, Dr. Patel and Dr. Shah may recommend surgical removal options.
Milder forms of pterygium can be removed in a short time using a topical anesthetic. If Dr. Patel and Dr. Shah are concerned about recurrence of the pterygium, they may suggest a very safe procedure known as autologous conjunctival autografting, or AmnioGraft®. This procedure involves the suturing or gluing of a piece of surface eye tissue in the area where the pterygium was removed. Along with Mitomycin-C, an antimetabolite, your chances of pterygium recurrence are greatly reduced.
Please contact our ophthalmologists in Edison, New Jersey today to schedule your initial pterygium treatment consultation. Patel Eye Associates serves patients in Edison, New Brunswick, and Middlesex County, New Jersey.
Questions about Pterygium
What is a pterygium?
A pterygium is a wedge- or wing-shaped growth of the conjunctiva, the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye. This type of growth is non-cancerous and may occur in one or both eyes. When occurring in both eyes, the condition is called pterygia.
Will I need surgery to correct a pterygium?
Many patients feel no physical discomfort after developing pterygia. Surgical removal may be necessary if you feel an uncomfortable sensation or if the pterygium is obstructing your vision. Edison, New Jersey eye doctors Dr. Hitesh K. Patel and Dr. Himanshu S. Shah can conduct a thorough examination of your condition to determine whether surgery will be necessary.
What causes pterygium?
While the exact causes of pterygium are not well understood, doctors agree that prolonged exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet light, as well as chronic eye irritation from windy, sandy, dry or dusty environments, may contribute to the development of the condition. If you feel you may be at risk, protect your eyes by wearing a hat and sunglasses outdoors, and avoid prolonged sun exposure.
What are the symptoms of a pterygium?
You may be able to see the pterygium growing on your eye but experience no symptoms and require no medical treatment. In some cases, pterygium may become swollen or appear red and inflamed. Sometimes the area begins to look thicker. You may have the sensation of having a foreign body lodged in your eye. Advanced pterygium may distort the corneal surface, which can lead to astigmatism.
What are my pterygium treatment options?
If you are experience no symptoms and no vision obstruction, Dr. Patel and Dr. Shah may suggest a wait-and-see approach. Milder forms of pterygium can be removed efficiently using a topical anesthetic. If Dr. Patel and Dr. Shah are concerned about recurrence of the pterygium, they many suggest an AmnioGraft®, a very safe procedure that covers the area with of a piece of surface eye tissue to prevent the pterygium from returning.
How can I prevent the development of pterygia?
Your best defense against pterygium is to wear UV 400 rated sunglasses when outdoors. Particularly, sunglasses offering a wrap around design offer the greatest protection. You may also wish to wear a wide-brimmed hat. If you work in conditions that are dry, sandy, windy or dusty, this may contribute to developing pterygium.