A pterygium is a benign, triangular-shaped growth of the conjunctiva that grows onto the cornea.

Last Updated: April 5, 2024


What is pterygium?

A pterygium is a benign, triangular-shaped growth of the conjunctiva (the thin, clear layer over the whites of the eyeball) that grows onto the cornea (the clear outer covering of the eyeball). Pterygia are commonly found on the inner or middle part of the eye. Sometimes, they are referred to as “surfer’s eye”. They can occur in one or both eyes.

What causes a pterygium?

The exact cause is unknown. However, some risk factors for a pterygium are exposure to:

  • ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun,
  • wind,
  • dust,
  • sand, and
  • dryness.

Protecting your eyes from the elements can help slow the growth of a pterygium. Wear sunglasses that block out 100% of UVA and UVB protection year-round to help protect your eyes.

What are symptoms of pterygium?

Besides a visible growth on the eye, symptoms of a pterygium include:

  • irritation,
  • redness
  • tearing,
  • feeling of a foreign body in the eye, and
  • blocked vision, in severe cases.

What can be done to treat pterygium?

If your pterygium is not causing discomfort, then treatment may not be needed.
If you have symptoms, your optometrist may suggest:

  • artificial tears,
  • mild anti-inflammatory eye drops, or
  • surgery, in severe cases.

Unfortunately, pterygium will often grow back.

If you notice any type of growth in your eye, it is important to have it properly diagnosed by your optometrist.



1 Image by Jmvaras José Miguel Varas, MD (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons