A pterygium (pronounced ter-idge-ee-um) is a wing- or wedge-shaped fleshy growth that develops over the sclera, or the white part of the eye. In nearly all cases, the growth starts at the inner corner of the eye, closest to the nose, and expands outward.
Pterygia are believed to be caused by overexposure to the sun’s UV rays, particularly when spending time on the water. That explains why pterygium earned the nickname “Surfer’s Eye.” It also explains why Dr Joshua Hann and our team at Eastside Eye Specialist Care see a lot of cases of pterygia in our region. Brisbane’s sunny climate, high UV exposure and outdoor lifestyle make it a prime location for pterygia.
Should I Be Concerned About a Pterygium?
A pterygium is not cancer, and in many cases, is no cause for concern. Watch it over time: you may discover that the growth remains small and stable for years, and any minor discomfort can be alleviated with artificial tears. If the pterygium does not bother you, treatment is not required.
However, pterygia can be unpredictable. Some are very unsightly and cause uncomfortable symptoms like a gritty, itchy or burning sensation or the feeling that something is stuck in the eye. Some pterygia grow over the cornea, which is the transparent tissue covering the iris. In rare cases, a pterygium can cross the line of vision, and the most serious pterygia can cause corneal scarring.
If the appearance of your pterygium bothers you, you experience symptoms related to it or it interferes with your vision, you can have surgery to remove the growth.
As a corneal specialist, Dr Hann provides comprehensive care for pterygia. He is specially trained in pterygium surgery, and uses a modern approach to achieve the best cosmetic outcomes with the least amount of post-operative discomfort. Your eye will be completely numbed during treatment, so you should not feel anything. Dr Hann also uses surgical techniques to reduce the risk of recurrence.
After surgery, you will need to use antibiotic and steroid eye drops while your eyes heal. Once your eyes have healed, you should be diligent about protecting them from the sun and other elements (e.g., dust, wind). Wearing quality UV-blocking sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat is highly recommended when spending time outdoors to prevent the recurrence of pterygia.
Schedule a Consultation With Dr Hann
For more information about the diagnosis and treatment of pterygium, please request a consultation with Dr Hann. Give us a call or send us an email today.