Pterygium is a painless, non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva, the lining that covers the white part of the eye. The pterygium may grow on the cornea, which covers the iris, the colored part of the eye. A pterygium usually begins at the nasal side of the eye and can be different colors, including red, pink, white, yellow or gray.
Patients with pterygium often first notice the condition because of the appearance of a lesion on their eye or because of dry, itchy irritation, tearing or redness. Pterygium is initially noticed when it is confined only to the conjunctiva. At this stage of development it is called a pinguecula. As it extends to the cornea it is termed a pterygium and can eventually lead to impaired vision.
In most mild cases of pterygium, artificial tears can be used to reduce dryness and irritation. For those patients with severe cases of pterygium and whose vision has been affected, different types of surgery are available. Surgery is the only way to definitively remove a pterygium, but it is not a perfect solution; it requires long-term follow-up, and the recurrence rate is between 30 to 40 percent.