Eye Health - Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. Gill

Eye Health – Pterygium

Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah
Dr S.S. Gill, Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah

Ipoh Echo’s Eye Health series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. Gill talking to us about Pterygium.

What are the causes of a pterygium?

Eye Health - Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GillA pterygium (pronounced with the “p” silent) is a wedge-shaped growth of thin tissue (conjunctiva) that covers the white outer surface of the eye (sclera). It may involve one or both eyes. It may remain small or may grow large enough to interfere with vision. When someone has a pterygium, it will be clearly visible to others and seen as a fleshy, reddish growth commonly affecting the inner corner of the eye.

The cause is not really known but there are some observations. Pterygium occurs more often in people who are excessively exposed to sunlight and wind. It is due to the chronic exposure to high ultraviolet-light.

It is also seen more in individuals who have eye irritation due to low humidity, dusty and smoky conditions. Patients who suffer from underlying dry eyes may also be more prone to developing a pterygium.

It is therefore seen more amongst farmers, fishermen, golfers and in those people living near the equator.

What are the symptoms?

Pterygium often has no symptoms. A fleshy growth commonly on the inner aspect of the eye will be seen. It is painless except when it  becomes inflamed. When this happens, it becomes red and swollen due to the dilated blood vessels in the pterygium.

In some patients itchiness of the eye or a dry sensation may occur. An increasing need to change spectacle power may also occur when the pterygium grows large because it has a tendency to induce astigmatism resulting in blurred vision.

In advanced cases the pterygium can grow over the clear part of the front of the eye (cornea). When this happens it obscures the optical centre of the clear part of the eye (cornea) resulting in significant loss of vision.

Are there any tests that need to be done?

Testing of a person’s eyesight will need to be done because a pterygium may induce astigmatism in the early stage. In the late stage, it may block a person’s vision completely. The eye doctor will need to do a routine slit-lamp eye examination in order to determine the extent of eye involvement. an assessment of the amount of tear production would be helpful in order to look for underlying associated Dry Eyes.

What is the treatment?

In the early stages, no invasive treatment is needed. A person is usually advised to wear protective sunglasses whenever exposed to sunlight or windy conditions. Any underlying dry eyes will need to be treated properly in order to prevent progression of the pterygium.

In cases where the pterygium grows to the extent that it blocks vision or develops symptoms of inflammation that are hard to control, then it should be surgically removed and the outcome is usually good in most patients. However, a pterygium may return after it is removed. Wearing protective sunglasses and a broad hat to prevent the exposure to sunlight is advised.

For more information, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at  05-5455582, email: gilleyecentre@dr.com or visit www.fatimah.com.my.