A pterygium, according to best Eye Specialist in Lahore, is a growth of the conjunctiva of the eye, which extends onto the cornea. This growth has a pink and fleshy appearance and can cover the visual axis. Read on to know more about pterygium, its symptoms, cause and treatment options:

What is pterygium?

Pterygium, also called surfer’s eye, is benign growth of the mucous membrane or the clear covering of the eye. This growth is wedge shaped and mostly occurs on the nasal side and extends to the cornea or the clear part of the eye. Most pterygiums are vascular and have blood vessels inside it. Pterygium can be small, or grow large enough to cover the central part of the cornea and hence the visual axis. 

Sometimes, the pterygium begins as a small, yellowish growth which is limited to the conjunctiva, called pinguecula. This pinguecula contains deposits of proteins, calcium and fat which can result in dryness, inflammation and redness in severe cases. 

Pterygium begins as a small growth, but usually becomes uncomfortable with time. If they grow large enough, they can disrupt the vision due to their effect on the shape of the cornea, which forms an important refractive medium for light.  

Pterygium can look scary, but they are only benign growths. These growths can stop after some time, or continue to extend. The main cause of pterygium is exposure to sunlight or UV radiation, wind and dust; and therefore, people with more outdoor work have higher incidence of this disease. Pterygium can occur in one eye or in some cases can even be bilateral. Around 12 percent of the people in the world have pterygium. 

What are the symptoms of pterygium?

Pterygium can occur with no symptoms, especially if it is smaller in size. When it becomes enlarged, however, it causes:

  • Red or pink raised growth on the eye
  • Swollen eyes
  • Teary eyes 
  • Grittiness and foreign body sensation 
  • Itching in the eye
  • Dryness of eye 
  • Astigmatism and double vision if cornea is affected 

What are the causes of pterygium?

As mentioned before, pterygium occurs due to exposure to outdoor elements such as wind, dust and sunlight. Hence it is also called ‘surfer’s eye’. Even though long-term exposure to the sunlight is the most common cause of pterygium, the irritation in the eyes due to hot weather, dust and wind can also lead to pterygium formation. 

The incidence of pterygium is higher in people living near the equator, especially men, between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Children are less likely to get this disease. 

How is pterygium diagnosed?

The diagnosis of pterygium, as with any eye condition, begins with complete inspection and examination. 

  • Visual acuity: Initially, the vision of the patient is assessed using a Snellen’s chart. 
  • Slit-lamp examination: a slit-lamp is a type of microscope, and is used to look at the magnified image of a pterygium with illumination. It helps to look at the extent, size and vascularity of the pterygium, along with its effect on the cornea. 
  • Corneal topography: may be done in cases of large pterygiums, which alter the shape of the cornea. This is a type of investigation to create an image of the surface of cornea and if the pterygium is altering the surface of the cornea, it will show up on this investigation. Corneal topography is also helpful to track the changes produced by the pterygium. 

The thorough clinical examination and investigations help to make a definitive diagnosis and rule out other causes of conjunctival growths, like cancer.  

What are the treatment options?

Most healthcare providers recommend no treatment if the pterygium is causing no discomfort or interfering with vision. Regular eye checkups are still needed to track the growth of pterygium and to determine its effect on the vision. 

  • Eye drops like mild steroids can be prescribed to keep the redness at bay. 
  • To deal with the discomfort, and dryness, over-the-counter lubricating eye creams, or eye drops can be used. These help to keep away the irritation and dryness from the eyes. The frequency of these eyedrops can be altered by Eye Specialist in Islamabad the depending on the severity of symptoms. 

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