What are Pterygiums?

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close up of the advance pterygium during eye examination

Previously we introduced you to pinguecula, that little yellowish growth composed of harmless calcium and protein deposits that can develop on the cornea of your eyes. Now let us introduce you to pingucula’s bigger and more attention-seeking sibling: Pterygium.

Pterygiums are noncancerous growths that can develop on the clear tissue of the eye. They can spread to the cornea, and they can happen on just one eye, or on both. 

Why Pterygiums Happen

Just like pingueculas, pterygiums can develop when the eyes are exposed to chronic amounts of ultraviolet light, wind, and dryness; in fact, pterygiums can even have the humble beginnings as a small pinguecula before turning into a wedge of fleshy tissue stretching from the palpebral conjunctiva (that thin clear lining covering the white portion of your eye) to the cornea (the front portion of the eye).

Are Ptyerygiums Harmful? 

Don’t worry though! This is the pterygium just showing off. Just like pingueculas, these growths are quite harmless and effects on appearance and vision of the eye are far from permanent.

Pterygiums like to make sure you don’t forget that they are there and that’s not just when you look in the mirror, but also when you look through the affected eye! Because they have that attention-seeking habit of growing onto the cornea, they can interfere with a person’s vision.

Does a Pterygium Need to Be Removed?

It is when they outgrow their welcome (by growing to sizes big enough to cause more problems) that we start to consider more “persuasive” measures beyond the use of artificial tears or steroid eye drops. In some cases, surgical removal is necessary to get rid of the pterygium. This is a minor procedure in which an ophthalmologist will surgically cut the pterygium away from the eye and transplant a normal piece of tissue in its place just to make sure that pterygium won’t grow back. And since the eye is one miraculous healing machine, recovery from the procedure is a brief one!

In most cases though, pterygiums should resolve on their own. To relieve the eyes of any dryness and discomfort caused by the pterygium, artificial tears will help keep the eyes lubricated. If redness or swelling occurs then the doctor will prescribe steroid eye drops.

Avoiding Pterygiums

To avoid the chances of ever meeting this little attention seeker, you should use sunglasses to block harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun and wear protective glasses or goggles whenever you plan on having recreational fun where there are high chances of wind and dust blowing at you! Remember, pterygiums love sunlight and they love those dry irritated eyes. And men, they like you too—as they are three times more likely to occur in the eyes of men than they do in women!

If you do suspect that you may be having a little visit from a pterygium, make sure to contact Gem State Family Eye Care to schedule an appointment with Dr. Drean so that she can help you show it who is the real boss!