I received a text from a regular reader. He wanted me to discuss Hepatitis, but he also complained bitterly about a red growth in his left eye. He neither knew the name nor the treatment for the growth. He just became apprehensive when he noticed that the growth appears to be expanding now.
I instructed him to take a selfie, with his eyes open, focusing on the left, and send it through Whatsapp. I now told him he had a pterygium, and he wanted me to discuss it before hepatitis.
So, what is Pterygium?
Pterygium is an elevated, wedge-shaped bump on the eye. Though it is named after a certain type of athlete – Surfers Eye, this common complaint can affect anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors.
• Pterygium starts on the white of the eye, and spreads to the cornea. It is a benign growth. It is usually triangular. If left untreated, can extend across the pupil obscuring vision.
What causes pterygium?
1. Exposure to excess ultraviolet light example farmers, welders.
2. Environmental irritants – wind, dust, chemicals, air pollution and hereditary factors.
3. Pterygium occurs twice more frequently in men than women.
4. Pterygium is most common in people older than 40 years.
What are the signs and symptoms of pterygium?
1. There may be no symptoms.
2. Starts as redning and thickening in the corner of the eye.
3. Redness of the eye and inflammation.
4. A gritty feeling in the eye.
5. A feeling that there is a foreign object in the eye.
6. Dryness of the eyes due to reduced tear production.
7. Obscurity of vision if growth encroaches across the pupil.
How do you diagnose pterygium?
1. Pterygium is diagnosed by its distinctive appearance and symptoms.
2. An Ophthalmologist should be contacted to differentiate it from Pinguecula – a non cancerous eye growth which affects the conjuctiva.
What is the treatment for pterygium?
1. This depends on the size, nature, symptoms and whether vision is affected. Treatment also involves medication and surgery.
2. Medication – short term use of topical corticosteroid eye drop, to reduce inflammation and redness.
• Where there is dryness we give artificial tears to keep the eye lubricated.
3. Surgery. This is recommended when vision is affected, or symptoms particularly problematic.
Whatever you do, see an Ophthalmologist if you notice any growth in your eyes.
Always be medically guided.
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