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What is Pterygium?

A pterygium (from the Greek, pterygos, “little wing”), also know as a “Surfer’s Eye,” is a wing-shaped, vascular, fleshy growth that originates on the conjunctiva and that can spread to the corneal limbus and beyond. Pterygia are relatively common in the general population and typically follow an indolent course, with changes in appearance but little effect on vision and the eye itself.*


Early in the disease process, pterygia are usually asymptomatic; however, there can be signs of dry eye (such as burning, itching or tearing) as the lesion causes irregular wetting of the ocular surface.

As the disease progresses, the lesion increases in size and becomes more apparent to the naked eye and may become cosmetically unpleasant for the patient. Further growth may cause visual symptoms due to induced astigmatism or direct encroachment onto the visual axis.*

How to Treat Pterygium?

There is a lack of consensus in the ophthalmological community about the optimal medical and surgical management of pterygia. Early in the disease process, physicians often take a conservative approach, limiting therapy to lubricating medications. Since UV radiation is believed to be an important risk factor, the clinician should recommend that patients with early-stage pterygia use proper protective eyewear. If the lesion grows, surgical intervention becomes more compelling (see “Indications for Surgery”). If aggressive pterygium behavior is common in a patient’s locale, a more aggressive surgical approach is appropriate. A pterygium larger than 3 mm may induce some astigmatism, and intervention may be warranted in such a case. Lesions larger than 3.5 mm (more than halfway to the center of the pupil in a typical cornea) are likely to be associated with more than 1 D of astigmatism and often cause blurring of uncorrected vision.*

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a “Surfer’s Eye,” contact the New Jersey Eye Center today for an eye consultation. Call us at 1-201-384-7333 or click here to make an appointment.

*Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology