What is a pterygium?

The following was written by Bill Evans and published in the Coolum and North Shore News, Ask the Professionals page on Friday, 27th November 2015.

Q: What is a pterygium?

A pterygium (pterygia for plural) is a non-cancerous growth on the surface of the eye. They start growing from the conjunctiva or “skin” of the white of the eye and gradually grow across the cornea. Pterygia generally occur in people exposed to sunny, windy and dusty conditions, and are often seen in fishermen, surfers or people who work outdoors. They are highly vascular and appear red, especially if the eyes are irritated. The best way to prevent pterygia is to wear wrap-around sunglasses that protect from both sun and wind exposure. If they grow across in front of the pupil they may affect vision, and require surgical excision.

Many people confuse a pterygium with a cataract. The difference is a pterygium grows on the outside surface of the eye, whereas a cataract is haziness to the lens, behind the iris inside of the eye.