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Commonly known as surfers eye, pterygium is a growth on the eye from exposure to ultra-violet light.

A pterygium is a wedge-shaped growth of thickened connective tissue that begins on the “white” of the eye and starts to encroach on the corneal surface. It typically starts growing on the sides closest to the nose. A pterygium may affect both eyes. Pterygium is not a cancer and is better defined as a localised disturbance to the surface of the eye.

What causes a pterygium?

Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun is the major risk factor in pterygium formation. Pterygium is also known as ‘surfers eye’ as it as they commonly suffer from one or more pterygia. People who live in closer to the equator, work outdoors and spend a lot of time in the sun exposed to UV light are also at risk.

What are the symptoms of a pterygium?

Most patients have no symptoms but are aware that the eye affected may appear red. An enlarging pterygium may cause the following symptoms:

How do I prevent getting a pterygium?

The best way to reduce the risk of pterygium is to protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays. Sun safety is very important. It is essential to start at a young age. Use of wide brimmed hats and wraparound sunglasses with high UV protection are recommended.

What are the treatment options for a pterygium?

In cases where the pterygium is actively growing and causing symptoms, surgery may be performed.

A small incision is made in the conjunctiva (membrane covering the white of the eye) surrounding the pterygium. The pterygium will then be lifted upward clear of the cornea.

To reduce the risk of recurrence, a conjunctival autograft is performed. A conjunctival autograft is a relocation of a small portion of the conjunctiva (from under the upper eyelid) to the site of the excised pterygium. The healthy tissue decreases the risk of re-growth of any remaining sun-damaged cells in the affected part of the eye.

For a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options of any eye condition, please make an appointment.