The exact cause is not understood. Long-term exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet rays, and chronic eye irritation from dry, dusty conditions seems to play an important role. Hence peterygium occurs more often in people who spent a great deal of time outdoor, especially in sunny and dusty climates. A dry eye may contribute to pterygium as well.
The main symptom of a pterygium is a painless area of raised white tissue, with blood vessels on the inner or outer edge of the cornea. Sometimes it may become inflamed and cause burning, irritation, or a feeling like there’s something foreign in the eye.
This depends largely on the size and extent of the pterygium, as well as its tendency for recurrent inflammation. Evaluation by an ophthalmologist will help determine the most optimal treatment in each case. If a pterygium is small but becomes intermittently inflammed, your ophthalmologist may recommend a trial of a mild steroid eye drop during acute inflammatory flares. If these drops are recommended, you should remain under the care of your ophthalmologist to ensure that you do not develop side effects from the use of these medications. In some cases, your ophthalmologist may recommend surgical removal of the tissue.
Most cases of pterygium bad enough to bring to a specialist’s attention end up requiring operation. The procedure takes about 45 minutes, and requires a hospital day stay and the use of the operating microscope. Local anaesthetic is used. After the procedure you will need to use drops for about 6 weeks and attend the office 2-3 times during this time. It takes about 6 weeks for the eye to settle after pterygium surgery and most patients want to be off work for 4-5 days, as the eye may be quite sore early on. The spectacle prescription can sometimes change slightly as a result of pterygium surgery.
Remember that your eye surface is vulnerable to infection until it has healed fully. This means that you must take every precaution to keep the eye clean. Grittiness or discomfort bright light suggests that the eye has not fully healed. Do no do any activities that may introduce dirt or dirty water into the eye. Wash your hands before touching the eye. Do not swim until you have been cleared to do so. Keep the nozzles of your eye-drop bottles or ointment tubes clean by avoiding contact with the eye or fingers.