Gulf Coast Eye Care

PTERYGIUM

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WHAT IS A PTERYGIUM?

Patients in sunny climates, such as the Tampa Bay area, can be at risk of pterygium. A pterygium, also called surfer’s eye, is a growth of whitish/yellowish or pink flesh-like tissue on your conjunctiva, the clear tissue that covers your eyeball. It can grow across the white part of your eye and over your cornea, which is the clear window that covers your iris and pupil and focuses light into your eye.

A pterygium is not cancer and most do not cause symptoms, but sometimes it can cause irritation, redness, affect your vision, or be a cosmetic concern.1 Experienced ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Manning treats pterygia at Gulfcoast Eye Care in the Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg areas in Florida.

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WHAT CAUSES A PTERYGIUM?

The exact cause of a pterygium (pronounced teh-RIDGE-ee-um; the plural is pterygia) is not entirely known.2 It is believed to be caused by a combination of wind, dust and exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.3 Although it’s sometimes called “surfer’s eye,” you don’t have to be a surfer to get a pterygium. People who spend a lot of time outdoors or work outdoors, such as farmers or fishermen, are more likely to develop a pterygium.2 A related condition is a pinguecula (pin-GWEK-you-la), which is a yellowish, raised growth on your conjunctiva. Sometimes a pterygium will start as a pinguecula.3

Ways to Prevent a Pterygium3:

  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV light
  • Wear goggles in windy, dusty areas
  • Use artificial tears when your eyes feel dry

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A PTERYGIUM?

The main symptom of a pterygium is a painless area of raised tissue on the white part of your eye.2 Sometimes a pterygium has no symptoms, but if you do have symptoms they may include:1-4

  • Dry, itchy, burning eyes
  • A feeling like sand or grit is stuck in your eye
  • Eye redness
  • Swelling of your conjunctiva
  • Blurry vision

A pterygium is diagnosed with a slit-lamp examination, which is a special microscope and light typically used as part of a regular eye exam.4

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HOW IS A PTERYGIUM TREATED?

At Gulfcoast Eye Care in the Tampa, Clearwater and St Petersburg areas, Dr. Manning can treat the discomfort from a pterygium with lubricating or steroid eye drops. If your pterygium grows large enough to cause problems, he may recommend surgery to remove it. Once the pterygium is removed, Dr. Manning may transplant a thin section of normal tissue onto the affected area to help lower the chance that your pterygium will grow back.3

Contact Gulfcoast Eye Care

To learn more about the treatments we offer for pterygium, please contact Gulfcoast Eye Care today.

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References
1Merck Manual. Pinguecula and Pterygium. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/eye-disorders/conjunctival-and-scleral-disorders/pinguecula-and-pterygium. Accessed September 26, 2019.
2U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. Pterygium. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001011.htm. Accessed September 26, 2019.
3American Academy of Ophthalmology, What Is a Pinguecula and a Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye)? Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/pinguecula-pterygium. Accessed September 26, 2019.
4Johns Hopkins Medicine, Wilmer Eye Institute. Pterygium. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/conditions/pterygium.html. Accessed September 26, 2019.


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