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Pterygium and the Eye

A great number of people often come to the clinic with complains of a yellowish mass in their eye which may be accompanied with redness and foreign body sensation. Most of them are ignorant or unaware of the problem. This has created the need for enlightenment of the public on this issue, especially as it affects people in equatorial regions (hot climate) like ours.


Pterygium is a harmless vascular growth on the clear thin tissue (the conjunctiva) that overlays the white part of the eye (the sclera). It is usually triangular in shape and commonly grows on the nasal side of the sclera, towards the cornea. The cornea is the transparent central tissue that covers the iris and pupil, and greatly contributes most of the eye’s focusing power. If pterygium grows over the pupillary aperture, it can interfere with vision.


The causes of pterygium is believed to be

  • Genetic
  • Excessive exposure to ultra violet rays (sunlight), which makes it more prevalent in equatorial regions.
  • Low humidity
  • Dust


Pterygium is external to the eye and the growth is usually visible before they cause symptoms. When inflamed, it could cause redness, foreign body sensation, tearing, dry and itchy eyes, and in advanced cases, pterygium could invade the cornea, obscuring the center of the cornea (the pupil) and causing induced astigmatism and cornea scaring.


Wearing of UV protective sunglasses, transition lenses or wide brimmed hats as well as using artificial tears may prevent its formation or reduce its progression since it is associated with excessive sun and wind exposure.


In mild cases, the discomfort and redness could be controlled with a lubricating eye drops or anti-inflammatory eye drops. As it is a benign growth, it usually does not require surgery unless it interferes with vision by growing over the pupil or the symptoms becomes acute. Prevention is always best.

In conclusion, the eye is the window to the world and one of the most vital organs of the body hence should be protected with utmost care.

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