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What is a pterygium?

It is a membrane that starts to grow on the conjunctiva that later grows onto and over the cornea. Pterygium means “wing” because it usually takes the form of a wing.

What causes it?

In is mainly caused by excessive exposure to sunlight and this is aggravated by wind or dust.

How is it treated?

Normally it is removed with a small operation. Eye drops can relieve the symptoms, but will not make the pterygium (membrane) disappear.

Negative effects of a pterygium

If the pterygium is allowed to become too large, it can influence a patient’s vision. It is therefore in the patient’s best interest to get it removed before it grows too far onto the cornea.


The operation can be done under local anaesthesia. After the operation the eye will be slightly painful, irritated and red. To prevent recurrence Mitomycin C is used during the operation. Sometimes irradiation can also be used post-operatively. It usually takes 6 weeks to heal completely, but normal work can be resumed after about 1 week.

How can it be prevented?

Wearing protective sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat will prevent excessive exposure to sunlight, wind and dust.

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