A pterygium is a wedge-shaped growth of thickened tissue that covers the white part of the eye. Typically, a pterygium starts growing near the inside corner of the eye. It is not a cancer and will not develop into cancer. Composed of conjunctival tissue, a pterygium may:
- grow large enough to cover the pupil, which can blur or obstruct vision
- cause irritation, tearing and discomfort
- interfere with the comfortable wearing of contact lenses
- pull on the cornea and distort its shape, which can cause astigmatism
- look red and unattractive.
In these cases, the pterygium may have to be surgically removed.
The exact cause of a pterygium is not known. Genetic factors may be important as pterygia tend to run in families. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun is thought to play a major role. Risk factors include:
- living in a tropical environment
- working outdoors
- spending a lot of time in the sun.
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