Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Pterygium on the eye

Thursday, November 24, 2005
Chronic eye irritation from dry dusty conditions is also a frequent trigger.

Question:
I have a pterygium on my left eye which I have got from years of surfing. Apart from not looking good, it doesn't bother me. Do these eventually have to be cut off or can they be left alone?

Answer:
This is a very common eye growth where an opaque fleshy looking thickened area forms over the conjunctiva (that covers the whites of the eye). If a pterygium gets big enough it can grow over part of the cornea (the transparent layer in front of the coloured part of the eye). They are extremely common in Australia especially amongst surfers who spend a lot of time in the sun without a hat or sunglasses.

Chronic eye irritation from dry dusty conditions is also a frequent trigger. If a pterygium is small and not interfering with vision it is often left alone and just watched. However if it interferes with vision or is too unsightly then it may be surgically removed. If you have a pterygium, talk to your doctor about what treatment is right for you. In the meantime, wearing a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses will help protect your eyes.


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