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.