Pinguecula and pterygium are growths on your conjunctiva – the clear covering over the sclera or white part of the eye. It is believed that the pterygium growth is caused by ultraviolet light from the sun, wind, and dirt, which surfers are exposed to while surfing; hence the condition is commonly referred to as a surfer’s eye.
The pterygium grows on the transparent membrane lining the inside of the eyelids. It is noncancerous but may cause eye irritation, discoloration, and tearing. If left untreated, the pterygium can continue to grow, causing irritation and impeding vision. If the growth becomes large enough, it can affect the shape of the cornea, which can cause astigmatism, which causes blurred near and far vision.
Symptoms include red or pink color on the inner corner of the eye, a dry or gritty sensation, tired eyes, blurred vision, itching, burning, and the feeling that there is something in your eye. If you are experiencing these symptoms, the doctor can easily make a diagnosis through an eye exam.
Treatment options include everything from the minimally invasive use of lubricating eye drops, ointments, or mild steroid drops used to reduce inflammation to surgery in more advanced cases. When the pterygium begins to interfere with your vision, it must be surgically removed. The surgery takes about 30 minutes and requires several days for recovery.
The doctor extracts the pterygium and tissue covering the conjunctiva during the surgical procedure and then places a graft over the area where the tissue was removed.
The pterygium can grow back. However, there are several things you can do to help deter pinguecula and pterygium, including using artificial tears to prevent eye dryness and wearing sunglasses, glasses, or goggles.