Pterygium – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

What is Pterygium?

A pterygium is a fleshy growth of the mucous membrane, known as the conjunctiva, over the cornea (clear window at the front of the eye).

A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth and is often seen to be in the shape of a wedge.



Causes of Pterygium

A pterygium develops due to cumulative ultraviolet (UV) exposure over time. Pterygium more commonly develops in people who live in warm climates or in individuals who spend a majority of their time in sunny or windy outdoor environments. This is why a pterygium is also known in common parlance as “surfer’s eye”.

Other contributing factors are sand, pollen, wind, and smoke.

Symptoms of Pterygium

Pterygium is a slowly progressive condition.

The most obvious symptom is a visible fleshy growth on the surface of the eye.

Other symptoms including blurred vision, redness, foreign body sensation and eye irritation. In some cases, there may also be itchiness and burning sensation in the eyes.

Pterygium can induce astigmatism, leading to blurred vision. As the pterygium gets larger, vision can become more and more blurred.

It may not be feasible for you to wear contact lenses comfortably in the presence of a pterygium.

Is Pterygium serious?

Pterygium can sometimes progress to the stage that it becomes serious by causing scarring on the cornea of the eye. The scarring on the cornea can lead to loss of vision.

In a small number of patients, a pterygium can ‘transform’ into a cancer.

Diagnosis of Pterygium

Diagnosing a pterygium is quite easy. An ophthalmologist uses the slit lamp device to examine the front of the eye at high magnification. There may be some additional tests that the doctor may perform to monitor the pterygium. These tests are:

  1. Visual Acuity Test: To check the level of eyesight.
  2. Corneal topography: This is a medical mapping technique. This technique helps in the measurement of the curvature of the cornea.
  3. Photo Documentation: The eye specialist takes pictures of the cornea to track the rate at which the Pterygium is growing.

Treatment of Pterygium

Most cases of pterygium do not need any specific treatment in the early stages. 

Two ways of treating pterygium are medication and surgery.

Eye drops can help relieve symptoms of eye irritation and prolonged redness. Corticosteroid eye drops and/or ointments are prescribed to control exacerbations related to inflammation.

Surgical removal is the only definitive treatment to cure the pterygium. Eye Surgery may be performed to address reduced vision, troublesome symptoms, or abnormal appearance.

Prevention of Pterygium

The best way to prevent pterygium is to reduce exposure of the eyes to UV. However, if you are exposed to such conditions, wear wrap-around sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes from sun, wind, and elements like pollen, dust, sand, and smoke.


Pterygium is a condition than can grow progressively and cause troublesome symptoms. It is therefore essential to have regular eye checkup.

Author Bio

Dr Parth Shah is an experienced ophthalmologist in Canberra, Australia. With extensive training and experience, he is renowned for his expertise in the field. Dr Shah is dedicated not only to performing successful surgeries but also to patient education. His compassionate approach, combined with technical proficiency, has earned him the trust and gratitude of countless patients. He is a true advocate for eye health and a trusted name in the Canberra ophthalmology community.