Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye)


 Pterygium is a triangular lesion extended from the white of the eye (the conjunctiva) onto the black part of the eye (the cornea). This lesion is due to benign growth of conjunctival vessels and tissues. Pterygium usually starts to emerge as a whiteness on the conjunctiva, and gradually extends to the cornea. Due to the presence of a great number of vessels, the color of pterygium is usually pink or red. A pterygium sometimes becomes inflamed and causes burning and itching and tearing. A pterygium may occasionally get inflamed, and cause redness, irritation and tearing. Sometimes a pterygium grows significantly, reaches the center of the cornea and blocks vision. In addition, even smaller pterygia can cause astigmatism by changing the corneal shape, which leads to blurred vision.

Pterygium Prevention

UV light can develop pterygium, so it is recommended that people living in sunny areas, who are exposed to the sunlight for long periods of time, wear sun hats and sunglasses. Also severe wind and dust can cause pterygium, by stimulating the eyes.

In people with pterygium, splashing water into eyes (while washing hands and face, or bathing) usually stimulates the eyes and causes irritation and redness of eyes. Therefore, these people must avoid getting water into their eyes as much as possible.

Pterygium Treatment

In case of small pterygia with no unpleasant appearance, or redness and irritation of the eyes, no special treatment is needed.

If a pterygium is inflamed occasionally and causes irritation and redness, regular use of artificial tear drops may relieve the symptoms. In case of sever inflammation of a pterygium, a course of treatment with steroid eye drops or other anti-inflammatory drops can be carried out, as prescribed by an ophthalmologist.

Larger pterygia that are significant in terms of appearance and beauty, or have caused blurred vision by developing astigmatism, can be removed through surgery. However, if a pterygium is removed by simple procedures, the likelihood of recurrence is high. Especially, in youth and people with inflamed pterygia, recurrence occurs in half of the cases. In these cases, it is recommended to utilize complementary methods, such as conjunctival transplantation, or using particular medicines (e.g. mitomycin) during the surgery, in addition to removing a pterygium.

In cases of larger pterygia which also extend to the center of the cornea, in addition to the above measures, it may be necessary to perform lamellar corneal transplantation, in order to correct the corneal shape.

It should be noted that some ocular tumors may be confused with pterygia at first. Therefore, in cases in which a pterygium grows rapidly or recurs frequently, you should consult an ophthalmologist.