DefinitionA pterygium is an abnormal, noncancerous growth of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a thin membrane lining the inside of the eyelid and part of the eyeball. It is located between the sclera, or the "white of the eye" which surrounds the eyeball, and the cornea, the dome-shaped window covering the front of the eye which is responsible for the refraction of light. If a pterygium continues to grow, it may spread onto the cornea.
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CausesExcessive growth of the conjunctiva leads to a pterygium. The exact cause of pterygium is unknown.
Risk FactorsPterygium is more common in men and in those of increasing age. Other factors that may increase your chance of pterygium include:
- Excessive exposure to environmental conditions (sunlight, dust, dirt, heat, dryness, wind, smoke) due to
- Outdoor hobbies
- Work in occupations with excessive exposure to solvents or chemicals
- Family members with pterygium
SymptomsThe symptoms of pterygia vary from person-to-person. It appears as a fleshy spot—whitish in color and containing blood vessels—extending onto the surface of the eye. In some people, pterygia remain small and do not affect vision. These pterygia are noticed only because of their abnormal cosmetic appearance. In other people, pterygia grow quickly and large enough to eventually distort the corneal surface and cause severely blurred vision. Pterygia do not cause pain.Pterygium may cause:
- Sensation of something in the eye
- Blurred vision
DiagnosisYour eye doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. An eye exam will be done.Tests may include the following:
- Visual acuity—to measure your ability to see an eye chart
- Slit lamp examination—a bright light with magnification used to view the eye
- Corneal topography—a computerized test that maps changes to the curvature of the cornea
- Photo documentation—photography to record the degree of growth of a pterygium
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