Pterygium in the conjunctiva is characterized by elastotic degeneration of collagen (actinic elastosis) and fibrovascular proliferation. It has an advancing portion called the head of the pterygium, which is connected to the main body of the pterygium by the neck. Sometimes a line of iron deposition can be seen adjacent to the head of the pterygium called Stocker’s line. The location of the line can give an indication of the pattern of growth. The exact cause is unknown, but it is associated with excessive exposure to wind, sunlight, or sand. Therefore, it is more likely to occur in populations that inhabit the areas near the equator, as well as windy locations. Additionally, pterygia are twice as likely to occur in men than women.
As it is associated with excessive sun or wind exposure, wearing protective sunglasses with side shields and/or wide brimmed hats and using artificial tears throughout the day may help prevent their formation or stop further growth.
Symptoms of pterygium include persistent redness, inflammation, foreign body sensation, dry and itchy eyes. In advanced cases the pterygium can affect vision as it invades the cornea with the potential of induced astigmatism and corneal scarring
As it is a benign growth, pterygium typically does not require surgery unless it grows to such an extent that it covers the pupil, obstructing vision or presents with acute symptoms. Some of the irritating symptoms can be addressed with artificial tears. However, no reliable medical treatment exists to reduce or even prevent pterygium progression. Definitive treatment is achieved only by surgical removal. Long-term follow up is required as pterygium may recur even after complete surgical correction.