Pterygium is a benign growth in the eye that goes from the conjunctiva to the cornea. It is known that one of the main factors for its development is the constant exposure to sunlight or wind or when people live in very dry and dusty areas.
As with pingueculae, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun may play a role in the formation of pterygia.
For this reason, and because pterygia frequently affect surfers and other people who spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun, another term used to describe the condition is “surfer’s eye”.
Pterygia usually occur on the side of the eye closer to the nose, and they can affect one eye or both eyes. Many people with mild pterygium do not experience symptoms or require treatment. Some pterygia may become red and swollen on occasion, and some may become large or thick. This may cause concern about appearance or the feeling something is “in” the eye or a foreign body sensation. A large, advancing pterygium also can distort the shape of the front surface of the eye and cause astigmatism.
Treatment of surfer’s eye depends on the size of the pterygium, whether it is growing, and the symptoms it causes. If a pterygium is small but becomes inflamed, we may prescribe eye drops to reduce swelling and redness. In some cases, surgical removal of the pterygium is necessary.
If a pterygium becomes large or inflamed, pterygium surgical removal may be necessary.