published Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Ask a doctor: What is a pterygium growth on my eye?

Q. I have a white-looking growth on the colored part of my eye. My doctor said it is a pterygium. What can you tell me about this?

A. A pterygium is a fleshy growth that invades the cornea (the clear front window of the eye). It is an abnormal process in which the conjunctiva (a membrane that covers the white of the eye) grows into the cornea. A pterygium may be small or grow large enough to interfere with vision and commonly occurs on the inner corner of the eye. When a pterygium becomes red and irritated, topical eyedrops or ointments can help. If the pterygium is large enough to threaten sight, it can be removed surgically. Even so, the pterygium may return, particularly in young people. Surface radiation or medications may help prevent recurrences. Protecting the eyes from excessive ultraviolet light with proper sunglasses and avoiding dry, dusty conditions may also help.

-- Dr. Deborah DiStefano, DiStefano Regional Eye Center; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question for medical doctors, email it to Clint Cooper at See this space each week for answers.

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