Pterygium 101

Apr 29, 2023
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What is a pterygium? How can it affect the eyes?

A pterygium is a non-cancerous, fleshy growth on the eye, that is most commonly caused by sun, or UV exposure. It is commonly seen in people who spend a lot of time outside, especially in bright environments like the beach. It is sometimes nicknamed "Surfer's eye". 

The best advice I can give anyone who is concerned about pterygium development, especially in Florida, is to protect your eyes from the sun (UV light) with 100% UV blocking sunglasses, and frequent use of hats and caps to keep the sun out of the eyes. 

In the early stages, a pterygium may be completely asymptomatic. However, over time, it can grow and lead to a few different problems. It may get very red and inflamed and look unsightly. It may feel irritated, or even painful. And worst of all, when they get larger, they can affect a patient's vision. 

They affect the vision in a few different ways: First, by growing over the cornea, which is the clear "window" at the front of the eye, they can affect a person's astigmatism. This has to do with the shape and curvature of the front of the eye. The pterygium has an adverse affect on this and can INCREASE a patient's astigmatism. 

Second, the elevated and irregular nature of the pterygium can disrupt the normal distribution of a person's tear film, causing blurry or inconsistent vision. 

Third, in severe cases, the pterygium can actually grow directly over the pupil. This is really a terrible situation, because it can lead to permanent corneal scarring, and should be avoided at all costs. 

If you have a pterygium and are experiencing symptoms, I would recommend seeing an ophthalmologist. 

If you are living in Central Florida, I'm currently accepting new patients. 

Until next time,