Vision Care Expert Discusses the Challenges of Living with Pterygium

People who spend most of their lives in the sun, especially near the equator, have a higher risk of pterygium. This wing-shaped, fleshy growth develops on the conjunctiva, the translucent mucous membrane covering the eye and lining the inside of the eyelids. Long-term UV exposure and dryness linked to outdoor professionals, such as surfers, farmers and fishermen, can cause pterygium and lead to redness, swelling and irritated eyes that may progress into blurry or blocked vision. 

Our eye care specialists at Laser Eye Center™ in Los Angeles understand the impact pterygium has on people’s lives and offer pterygium treatments to restore healthy eyes and vision. 

Pterygium May Cause Painful Symptoms 

While pterygium is not a life-threatening concern, it comes with serious symptoms that can affect your quality of life. The raised, flesh-colored growth may lead to chronic dry eyes, itchiness, burning sensations and a feeling like there’s grit or sand in the eye. Some people may have involuntary tearing. As the condition progresses, pterygium may cause double vision and blurred vision, which will affect your ability to do your job safely and effectively. 

People who wear contacts may find the lenses too uncomfortable and need to switch to prescription eyeglasses. 

Pterygium Affects Eye Function and Aesthetics 

In English, pterygium is nicknamed “Surfer’s Eye” because of its prevalence in the surfing community, but anyone who spends their days in the sun without eye protection is at risk. Some growths spread slowly, while others progress rapidly and lead to significant issues and require surgery. Farmers, fishermen and other people living with pterygium who must continue working in sunny conditions may need treatment or surgery if the growth causes these eye problems: 

  • Restricted eye movement
  • Issues with the visual axis or alignment
  • Vision blurred or loss caused by astigmatism
  • Increasing pterygium size 
  • Significant irritation and redness 

Lastly, people embarrassed by the fleshy growth may want it removed for cosmetic reasons as the condition is often confused with appearing inebriated and/or under the influence of drugs. In some cases, individuals have lost their jobs on this basis alone.

Prevalence of Pterygium in Latinos

According to the National Library of Medicine, pterygium (carnosidad in Spanish) rates were high in this population of Latinos. The prevalence of pterygium was high (overall 16%). Men had a higher rate than women (23.7% versus 11.5%, respectively).

Socioeconomic status markers for increased exposure to sunlight suggest this may be the target of simple interventions to reduce the risk of pterygium in this ethnic population.

How is Pterygium Treated?

Initially, lubricating eye drops and steroid eye drops are used to manage the initial stages of pterygium, but these are temporary solutions. Pterygium usually requires surgical removal. 

Pterygium surgery is a routine procedure. At Laser Eye Center™, our eye surgeons use a special “auto-graft” technique to reduce the chances of recurrence or re-growth. This autograph technique is an advancement over previous methodologies, bringing down the risk of recurrence from 75% to about 25%.

This autograph procedure involves anesthetic drops to numb the eye, and then one of our experienced eye surgeons removes the growth. Next, healthy conjunctiva tissue is taken from the patient’s own upper eyelid and is planted into the surgical site for optimal healing and results. Fibrin glue adheres the transplanted tissue to the cornea and reduces recovery time, inflammation and discomfort. 

Laser Eye Center™ is the most trusted name in refractive and cataract surgery, and our eye care specialists have performed more than 500,000 successful procedures. Our eye surgeons will explain the pterygium removal process and determine what steps should be taken for your vision health.

Schedule an eye exam at Laser Eye Center™ to track the growth of your pterygium and determine the best course of treatment. Call our Los Angeles, California, office at (800) 805-2737 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation.

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