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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute


What is a pterygium?

A pterygium is a triangular-shaped tissue growth, yellow-white to pinkish in color, on the nasal side of the cornea. It may become red, inflamed or advance toward the center of the eye. Some pterygia grow slowly throughout a person’s life, while others stop growing after a certain point. A pterygium rarely grows so large that it begins to cover the pupil of the eye.

Pterygia are more common in sunny climates and in the 20-40 age group. Scientists do not know what causes pterygia to develop. However, since people who have pterygia usually have spent a significant time outdoors, many doctors believe ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun may be a factor. In areas where sunlight and wind is strong or dust is prevalent, wearing protective eyeglasses, sunglasses, and/or hats with brims are suggested.

It is a benign condition and will not spread to damage the internal part of the eye. Because a pterygium is visible, many people want to have it removed for cosmetic reasons. Lubricants can reduce the redness and provide relief from the chronic irritation.