A pterygium is a raised, wedge-shaped growth of the conjunctiva (the clear mucous membrane lining the inner eyelids and the sclera) that extends onto the cornea. Pterigia are benign lesions that can be found on either side of the cornea that may be caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight or wind. Inflammation, exposure to dust and dryness may also be a factor. They usually cause irritation, redness and foreign body sensation. Sometimes they grow and cause decreased or distorted vision.
A slit-lamp examination is usually adequate for diagnosis. However, in some cases the lesion has to be excised and examined pathologically to make the exact diagnosis.
Pterygia are often asymptomatic and may not require treatment. However, pterygia in some patients can grow over the cornea and affect the vision or cause persistent irritation and may require surgical removal. At Wilmer, pterygia is treated by the Ocular Surface Diseases and Dry Eye Clinic.