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Pterygium - What it is

A pterygium is a fleshy, triangular or wing-shaped growth of the conjunctiva of the eye. It usually occurs on the inner corner of the eye but can also appear on the outer corner. It is a slow-growing, benign lesion, and is usually harmless. However, in rare cases, a pterygium may sometimes grow over the central cornea and affect vision. 

Pterygium - Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of a pterygium include:

  • A whitish growth with prominent blood vessels on the inner and/or outer corners of the eye
  • Can occur in one or both eyes
  • Redness over the affected area
  • Eye irritation and foreign body sensation
  • Dry eye symptoms
  • Occasional tearing
  • Blurring of vision (in advanced cases when growth is over the central cornea or when it causes astigmatism due to the stress forces it exerts on the cornea surface)

Pterygium - How to prevent?

You should use adequate UV protection when outdoors in sunlight or driving, such as sunglasses with UV protection or hats with wide rims. 

Pterygium - Causes and Risk Factors

What causes pterygium?

The exact cause of pterygium is still not known, and is thought to be due to multiple factors interacting together. However, ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun has been proven to be the most likely contributing factor. Exposure to dry, dusty conditions has also been thought to play a role.

Pterygium - Diagnosis

Diagnosis is made upon examination by an ophthalmologist.

Pterygium - Treatments

In cases when there are no symptoms and the pterygium is not cosmetically significant, it can be left alone. When the pterygium causes irritation, redness or discomfort, artificial tears can help moisturise the eye and relieve the discomfort. Eye drops, however, will not affect the growth of the pterygium.

When the pterygium affects vision, causes persistent irritation or discomfort, surgical removal is recommended. The surgery involves removing the fleshy growth and transplanting a translucent patch of conjunctiva over the area to reduce the risk of the pterygium growing back (recurrence). This patch of conjunctiva is usually from one's own eye (a conjunctival autograft), and the autograft can be secured with sutures or with the use of fibrin glue (sutureless). The autograft may be harvested manually or assisted by laser.

Complications of pterygium surgery are uncommon, but can include infection, scarring or thinning of the surgical site. The most common complication is recurrence. Fortunately, the risk of pterygium recurrence following surgical removal and a conjunctival autograft (our gold standard for pterygium surgery) is low (less than 5%).

Pterygium - Preparing for surgery

Pterygium - Post-surgery care

Pterygium - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth