Can Pterygium Affect My Cornea?

close up view of the cornea

Pterygium, also known as surfers eye, is a fleshy growth that develops on your conjunctiva or the white of your eye. It is not cancerous but can cause uncomfortable symptoms and be unpleasant to look at.

Pterygia occur in people who spend a lot of time in the sun and elements without eye protection. That is why they are common in surfers, fishers, and other people who work and spend time outdoors.

While a pterygium usually doesn’t threaten your eyesight, it can grow over your cornea, creating visual impairment. Keep reading to learn more about pterygium and how it can affect your cornea.

What is a Pterygium?

Pterygium is a fleshy growth that usually develops in the inner corner of your eye near your nose. Because of the fleshiness of a pterygium, they do contain blood vessels.

That means they are not a deposit but a living growing tissue. As they grow, they move across your conjunctiva towards your cornea and pupil.

Pterygia are usually triangular and spread across your conjunctiva as they move towards the center of your eye. If you have one that develops far enough, it can cover your cornea, which can cause some visual impairment.

Can Pterygium Affect Your Cornea?

Pterygia, while unpleasant to look at, for the most part, do not impair your vision. For the most part, they are benign growths that sit on your conjunctiva. 

But, in some cases, they can grow across your eye, which is when you may begin to have problems. If a pterygium is interacting with your cornea, it likely will affect your vision.

As a pterygium sits on top of your cornea and comes in contact with the corneal tissue, it can cause blurry vision. This can make it difficult for you to see clearly or sharply.

If that is happening to you, pterygium removal surgery may be necessary. If your vision is clear, even with a pterygium, surgery is unnecessary, but you may want to get yours removed anyways.

Other common symptoms of pterygium are swelling of your conjunctiva and dry, itchy, burning eyes, or a feeling of a foreign object in your eye. These can be unpleasant but should not impact your eyesight.

How Do You Treat Pterygium?

Mild pterygium that is not affecting your cornea or vision is treatable with eye drops and ointments. These medicines keep your eyes hydrated and limit the discomfort you feel.

But when pterygia blur your vision, more serious treatment is necessary. Pterygium removal surgery is a medical procedure to take the pterygium off your eye.

After it’s gone, a graft of skin from underneath your eyelid covers the area to prevent regrowth. An older version of pterygium removal surgery did not use a graft of tissue to replace the pterygium.

This older procedure resulted in a lot of regrowth. But by grafting tissue over where the pterygium grew, reoccurrence of pterygium is significantly reduced.

Do you have a pterygium that needs treatment? Schedule an appointment at Ginsberg Eye in Naples, FL, to see how best to treat your pterygium!