Eye Care Instructions for a Pterygium

What is a pterygium?

A pterygium (say teh-rij-e-um) is a pinkish-yellow, triangle-shaped tissue growth. This tissue is not harmful. It grows on the clear part of the cornea. In some people, the tissue grows to a certain size and stops; in others, it grows slowly throughout the person’s life. A pterygium may develop in one or both eyes.

What causes a pterygium?

The exact cause is unknown, but a pterygium develops more often in people with long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. People who work outdoors, spend a lot of time outside, or live in hot climates are at greater risk.

What are the signs of a pterygium?

    A pterygium may cause

  • The inner corner of the eye to become deep red or pink
  • A feeling like something is in the eye or a gritty feeling
  • Tired eyes

How can I prevent growth of a pterygium?

  • When outside, always wear sunglasses that block UV rays (UV-A and UV-B). Remember to wear UV-blocking sunglasses when around snow, water, sand, and other bright surfaces that reflect light. Sunglasses with a wraparound design provide the most protection.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap to further protect the eyes from sunlight. A wide brim blocks about 50% of UV radiation.
  • Ideally, all types of eyewear, including prescription glasses and contact lenses, should block UV radiation. Ask your eye care professional about products with built-in UV protection.
  • Artificial tears help to keep a pterygium from getting irritated. A pterygium may be surgically removed if there is an increase in growth or irritation becomes increased.