A pterygium is a triangular growth of connective tissue and blood vessels originating in the nasal conjunctiva and extending onto the cornea. Pterygia are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, wind, dust and smoke. Pterygiae are common in areas approaching the equator where sun exposure is maximized, and rare in cold climates. Hereditary factors may also be involved.
Treatment is usually sought for inflammation, tearing, foreign body sensation and cosmetic disfigurement. Visual disturbances may result if the pterygium grows over the limbus onto the surface of the cornea towards its apex. There may be an increase in or disruption of, the tear film. Corneal topography is useful to document such findings.
When medical treatment or eye drops don’t work, surgical treatment may be an option. During surgery the pterygium is removed leaving a bare area. To cover this bare area, a section of the conjunctiva (the eye’s transparent covering) is harvested and grafted in place with both sutures and tissue adhesive.
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Dr. Lawrence Stone performs pterygium surgery at Vanguard Weiss Memorial Hospital. View Dr. Stone's profile.
Photo: © 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.