Pterygium: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Pterygium is a wedge-shaped growth commonly seen in the eyes. It comes as a result of degeneration of the tissue of the eyeball and gradually extends from the white part of the eyes to the black of the eyes. It is usually seen on the side of the eyes that’s closer to the nose. It can also be traingular in shape.




Causes of Pterygium

The cause of this condition is not very clear yet, but it has been known to be related to long term exposure to ultaviolet rays (like that of the sun) and dust. Genetic factors also appear to be involved.

It has been noticed commonly among those who expose themselves to the sun daily, especially the afternoon sun.


Symptoms of Pterygium

The symptoms of Pterygium generally depend on the stage of the disease that the person is having, which depends on how close the growth is to the pupil (the black small hole in the centre of the eyes). What this means is that, the higher the stage, the larger the growth.

There are four main stages of Pterygium, and the last stage is also known as pterygial blindness, which signifies its severity. That is, at the Stage four of the disease, the person would be blind on that eye.

So symptoms can range from minor disturbances like blurry vision, to complete visual impairment (blindness).

Symptoms can include persistent redness, foreign body sensation, tearing, dry and itchy eyes, triangular growth in the conjunctiva.
However, there are people with the condition that have no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages of the disease.

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Prevention of Pterygium

Since the condition has been know to be associated with excessive exposure to sun or wind, wearing protective sunglasses would help in preventing pterygium.
Also, using wide brimmed hats and using artificial tears throughout the day may also help prevent their formation or stop further growth.


How do you Treat Pterygium

Treatment of Pterygium is mainly by Surgery. What is done here is the surgical removal of the growth, which is what we call excision.

However, this excision is best done at stages 1 and 2 of the disease, when the disease has not reached the pupil (black hole in the eye) yet, to avoid damage to the cornea part of the eye.

After the surgery, some measures can be taken to prevent recurrence of the Pterygium.
These include the use of Beta irradiation, auto conjunctival transplant and drug use.
Examples of commonly used drugs for this are thiotepa eyedrops, low dose mitomycin and 5 fluoro uracil.

Remember: regular use of sunglasses for protection against the ultraviolet rays of the sun can help you prevent the development of Pterygium.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have and I would do my best to answer them.

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  • Agu Uchenna

    Agu Uchenna attended the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Ituku Ozalla, in Enugu State Nigeria.

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