A pterygium is abnormal thickening and growth of the tissue (conjunctiva) overlying the white part of the eye (sclera), and extension of this growth onto the cornea.

It is most commonly found on the side of the eye adjacent to the nose, and is often noticed as a redness that is gradually increasing in size.

Frequent asked questions (FAQs):

This condition is very common in people who are persistently exposed to excessive sunlight (i.e. UV light). It is more frequently seen in those who have lived in sunny areas of Far East Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Africa and South America.
A pterygium will result in a triangular pink bump on the white bit of the eye, and can grow onto the clear window of the eye (cornea). It can cause intermittent irritation and redness. A pterygium can worsen eyesight by growing onto the central cornea, or by altering the shape of the eye surface (astigmatism).
A pterygium is diagnosed by clinical examination during your clinic consultation. This is important to help differentiate a pterygium from similar more rare conditions. Occasionally, a sample may need to be sent to the lab to rule out more serious causes.

Often a pterygium will not require treatment. Intermittent irritation and redness is often successfully treated with lubricating eye drops (artificial tears).

Occasionally, a short course of steroid eye drops is used if there is significant inflammation.

Surgery is an option when the pterygium interferes with vision, causes persistent inflammation or is making the eye appear abnormal.

Surgery is most frequently performed under local anaesthesia, but can be performed under sedation or general anaesthesia. The eye is usually sore and red after the surgery. Using the drops prescribed by your doctor after surgery is important to minimise risk of infection and inflammation.

A pterygium can recur after surgical removal. However, modern techniques in pterygium surgery have significantly reduced the recurrence rate from almost 90% down to about 5-10%.

The rate of recurrence is influenced by several factors. For example, it is much higher when removing a recurrent pterygium (one which was operated on before), or in certain ethnic groups (e.g. Hispanics).