The front of the eye, with the exception of the clear cornea, is covered by a loose layer of tissue called the conjunctiva. In some people the conjunctiva may develop a very prominent and elevated wedge shaped growth called a pterygium. This growth usually has a white color to it with tiny blood vessels growing quite visibly within it. It is important to note that a pterygium is not a "tumor." A pterygium may become quite annoying causing redness, irritation, burning and tearing.

It is felt that the most common cause of pterygium growth is excessive exposure of the eyes to bright sunlight, wind and dust. It is strongly advised that people spending excessive amounts of time exposed to strong sunlight and wind wear appropriate eye protection in the form of UV absorbing sunglasses and brimmed hats.

Many people are unaware of the presence of a pterygium until it grows from the conjunctiva well onto the clear cornea at which time it may become very noticeable to them or others. Its growth over the cornea may actually affect vision especially if it begins to reach the central area of the cornea. With such growth the pterygium may need to be surgically removed for either cosmetic or visual reasons. Pterygium removal has a much greater chance of success, including less scarring of the cornea, if done by a specialist in corneal surgery who regularly performs such delicate procedures.