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Pterygium: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About pterygium

Pterygium is a degenerative eye disorder characterized by a fleshy and benign growth of conjunctiva on the nasal corner of the eye. The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that covers the white part of the eye. The growth may extend to the cornea in later stages and result in visual impairment. Treatment is generally not required unless it affects the vision of the person.

Pterygium: Incidence, age and sex

The incidence of disease is more common in individuals staying in dry and dusty climatic regions. Individuals staying near equatorial regions are highly susceptible to this eye disorder due to increased exposure of eyes to ultraviolet rays. Men are more likely to be affected than women. Pterygium rarely occurs in children.

Signs and symptoms of pterygium: Diagnosis

Pterygium is asymptomatic in most of the individuals. One or both eyes may be involved. However occasional symptoms like redness, itching, dryness and foreign body sensation can occur. In advanced stage of disease it affects the vision leading to visual disturbances like diplopia (i.e. double vision).

Diagnosis is based on clinical features and physical examination of the eye by an eye specialist who may detect a white, raised area on the eye surface. No other investigations are needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of pterygium

The exact cause of the disease is not very clear. However excessive exposure to ultraviolet and infrared rays of sun has been implicated in the causation. The important risk factors are blowing dusty winds and sandy areas. People in trades as that of fishermen, farmers and individuals staying in equatorial regions have high chances of developing the condition. It is commonly observed in elderly men doing outdoor work and who remain constantly exposed to sun rays and dusty winds.

Preventive measures for pterygium include protection of the eyes from ultraviolet rays by using sunglasses or wearing wide brimmed hats during persistent outdoor activities.

Pterygium: Complications

The most important complication is visual impairment which may occur when pterygium extends onto the cornea. Recurrence of pterygium even after surgery has been often documented.

Pterygium: Treatment

Generally, the condition is asymptomatic and does not require intensive treatment. However in symptomatic cases, topical medications like artificial tears or anti-inflammatory eye drops are prescribed for relief of local symptoms like redness and foreign body sensation. Surgery is indicated in seldom cases when the disease becomes advanced and leads to visual disturbances. However the incidence of relapse of pterygium after surgical management is quite high. Thus it is advisable to take regular care of the eyes and shield them from winds, dust and ultraviolet sun rays.