Our eyes are a vital feature of our face. The contrast between the sclera, the white part of the eye, and the iris, the colored part, makes our eyes distinctive. The sclera is covered by a transparent mucous membrane called the conjunctiva. In normal conditions, the conjunctiva has no color. However, chronic sun exposure may cause the conjunctiva to become irritated and to thicken and adapt a yellowish hue. Eventually, to protect themselves from ultraviolet damage, the cells of the conjunctiva may transform into tougher tissue. This protective mechanism causes the red and thickened appearance of an eye that has been chronically exposed to the sun. We call this condition a pterygium.
Pterygium is a benign growth of the conjunctiva that is caused by chronic sun/ultraviolet light exposure. Pterygium is much more common in countries around the equator. The most common symptoms of a pterygium include light sensitivity, red and irritated eyes, tearing, and eye fatigue. Pterygium is usually present in both eyes, but one eye may have more symptoms of irritation.
Pterygium does not just cause visual problems and eye irritation. It may also affect an individual’s appearance. Having chronically irritated and red eyes may cause a person to look tired, worried, or just ill. Many people with pterygium seek an eye surgeon because they want their eyes to look normal again.
Only a few alternatives exist to treat pterygium, and we will be discussing them in upcoming blogs. Stay tuned!