People suffering from a pterygium will tend to lose self-esteem and may even fear making eye contact with others due to the presence of a clearly visible muscular coating that extends from the whites of the eyes to the cornea. Moreover, the condition can have a long-term effect on a person’s vision if left untreated for an extended period of time, which also makes any treatment much more difficult. Additionally, neglecting the condition completely can lead to a tumor which could close both eyes, meaning that patients could lose their sight altogether.
Patients will observe a muscular coating beginning to protrude into the cornea which tends to emanate from the nasal part of the eye rather than the temporal side. The disorder may affect one or both eyes. Patients usually experience irritation alongside redness or soreness, in conjunction with the eyes watering. If the condition is allowed to develop until the pterygium reaches the pupil itself, the patient’s vision will become blurred.
Pterygium occurs due to an irregularity in the eye’s conjunctiva that leads to this part of the eye degenerating and becoming thicker. This continues until it reaches the point where a muscular coating protrudes from the whites of the eye into the cornea. A symptom of this is the patient’s vision becoming blurred.
The true causes of pterygium remain unclear. Large numbers of cases are found in tropical countries located around the equator where the sun’s rays are at their strongest, the weather is quite dry and dust can be present in the wind. It has also been found that the pterygium disorder is not exclusive to the elderly whose conjunctivas have already begun to deteriorate. Working-age men and women are also at risk if they are exposed to any of the following factors:
If the condition is in its early stages, surgery will not be necessary. Prevention of any further swelling can be carried out by wearing sunglasses which effectively protect against UV rays, alongside the use of eye drops to manage the inflammation as directed by your doctor.
However, in cases where the pterygium expands, causing frequent bouts of swelling and a reduction in sight, doctors will advise patients to undergo pterygium removal surgery. People tend to become quite anxious at the thought of such a procedure, but this form of surgery takes under one hour to complete and patients are usually allowed home immediately afterwards, with no overnight stay in hospital necessary.
Nevertheless, patients who have undergone pterygium removal surgery may be at risk of the condition returning. However, current surgical techniques combined with post-surgery treatment in the form of eye drops mean that the chances of a pterygium returning are less than 1% when patients carry out proper post-surgery eye care and avoid exposure to the aforementioned risk factors.
Although a pterygium has the potential to become severe, the surgery to remove it is uncomplicated. It takes just a short amount of time and is extremely safe. That being said, a pterygium should not be overlooked or neglected in any way. Protective eyewear should be worn at all times, whenever it is necessary to go outside during the sunniest times of the day. Furthermore, a diet high in vitamin A – which can be found in green vegetables, milk, egg yolks as well as yellow- and orange-colored fruits – is recommended to increase conjunctival strength.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Mahidol University, 1993.