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A pterygium is a fleshy growth starting on the white part of the eye and extending onto the cornea (which is over the colored part of the eye).
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology ®
Most symptoms are related to eye discomfort and redness. As a pterygium grows it becomes thickened and raised. As such it cannot be properly coated with tears and moisture, leading it to dry out and become inflamed. A pterygium can also distort the cornea from its normal round shape; this is known as astigmatism. Astigmatism causes blurry vision and requires glasses to help you better focus better. Finally, as a pterygium continues to grow it can cover the pupil and block one’s central vision significantly.
Pterygia occur in the setting of chronic ultraviolet (UV) exposure from the sun as well as anything that can irritate the surface of the eye such as a dust, wind, dry environments, and contact lens usage. Most people who have pterygia may have spent a lot of time on the beach or ski slopes without sunglasses. Many people with pterygia lived in countries near the equator where they have longer days and greater sun exposure.
While the diagnosis is a visual one, at InVision we have very sensitive topography and photographic imaging devices which can track the growth of the pterygium and its effect on distorting the cornea over time. This leads to better management and timely intervention of pterygia.
If the pterygium is small and only causes irritation, lubricating eye drops and sometimes mild steroid eye drops may bring symptoms under control. Avoiding contact lens wear is wise. If symptoms persist and/or if the pterygium is growing and worsening vision, it can be gently removed surgically. Generally, the recurrence rate is under 10%, especially if one routinely uses eye lubrication and wears sunglasses when outside.
Should you need pterygium excision surgery, it will be performed at our state-of-the art ambulatory surgery center, Seashore Surgical Institute.
Dr. Ragam is experienced in all facets of corneal surgery and has published research on corneal disease. We are fortunate on the Jersey shore to have such a talented and caring corneal specialist. We welcome Dr. Ragam to our multispecialty practice.