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A pterygium is a growth of the conjunctivita – the clear, thin tissue that lays over the white part of your eye. The name derives from a Greek word meaning “butterfly-shaped.” One or both eyes may be affected by pterygia, which can vary in size. Once a pterygium has grown onto the cornea, it can cause vision problems. Left untreated, it is possible for a pterygium to grow completely over the pupillary zone and cause blindness.
On occasion, some pterygia can become red and swollen. Large and advanced pterygia can actually cause a distortion of the surface of the cornea (called “corneal scarring”), inducing astigmatism. This means that the pressure of the pterygium causes the normal spherical shape of cornea to change, making it more difficult for your eyes to focus.
Causes of Pterygium
The exact cause of pterygium is unknown, but researchers believe its development is associated with excessive exposure to wind, sunlight, or sand. UV radiation is the most likely culprit. Therefore, it is more likely to occur in populations that inhabit areas near the equator.
Since it is associated with excessive sun or wind exposure, wearing protective sunglasses with side shields and/or wide brimmed hats can help prevent the formation of pterygium, or stop further growth. Additionally, using artificial tears throughout the day may help.
Surfers and other water-sport athletes should wear eye protection that blocks 100% of the UV rays from the water. Other diseases that may lead to pterygium should be treated or controlled, such as dry eye syndrome, allergies, or demodex blepharitis.
Many people with pterygia do not notice any symptoms. Inspect your eye closely: is there a painless area of elevated white tissue? Do blood vessels appear on the inner or outer edge of your cornea?
Other signs to look out for are:
- Persistent redness
- Sensation of a foreign body in the eye
- Dry, itchy eyes
Untreated pterygia can lead to many serious consequences, including:
- Blindness: If the pterygium crosses the dark part of your eye it can interfere with the light reaching the eye. This can lead to blindness.
- Restriction of Eye Movement: Pterygium can be considered like an elastic string attached to the eye. If this becomes fibrotic the elasticity is lost the pterygium then acts like a restrictive chain interfering with eye movements.
- Decreased Vision and Astigmatism: As the pterygium grows it pushes the corneal tissue causing flattening in the horizontal axis. This causes vision problems.
- Cancer: Pterygium may harbor cancer cells some times. This is more common if it is a younger patient, only one eye has a pterygium (asymmetric), or the pterygium starts growing aggressively. It is recommended to do a biopsy examination on these removed specimens.
Surgical removal is the only way to permanently treat pterygium. Dr. Khanna has performed thousands of pterygium surgeries; if you have this unusual eye disorder, you have come to the right place. We offer the latest suture-less technique of pterygium surgery. Drops or gel are used to numb the eye, allowing for painless removal of your pterygium. A piece of surface eye tissue called a “graft” is then placed to prevent re-growth of the pterygium. Most patients can go back to work or normal activities the next day.
If you have pterygium, now is the time to get treatment and protect your vision. Most medical insurances cover the cost of pterygium treatment. Please contact The Khanna Institute today to schedule a free initial consultation. We serve patients throughout the Los Angeles area, with offices in Beverly Hills and Westlake Village, California.