A pterygium is a fleshy growth that invades the cornea. It is an abnormal process in which the conjunctiva (a membrane that covers the white of the eye) grows into the cornea. Pterygium may be small or grow large enough to interfere with vision, and commonly occurs on the inner corner of the eye.
The exact cause of pterygium is not well understood. Pterygium occurs more often in people who spend a great deal of time outdoors, especially in sunny climates. Long-term exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet (UV) rays, and chronic eye irritation from dry, dusty conditions seem to play an important causal role.
- Decreased vision
- Foreign body sensation
The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have pterygium. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.
When a pterygium becomes red and irritated, topical eyedrops or ointments may be used to help reduce the inflammation. If the pterygium is large enough to threaten sight, is growing or is unsightly, it can be removed surgically.
For more information, see the Comprehensive Ophthalmology and Cataract Sugery Clinic and the complete Clinic Services listing of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center.