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Pterygium (sprout flesh) a frequent complaint

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On a daily basis at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital I always try to explain to my patients what their disease is all about, its characteristics and most importantly its treatment and prognosis.

One of the most frequently seen in patients of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is PTERYGIUM or as it is more commonly known here “sprout flesh” in the eye, which I had promised to speak to you about and this week I will take advantage of this popular and prestigious newspaper as well as the increased interest of its readers to do so.{{more}}

What exactly is a pterygium? I am well aware of the overall lack of knowledge concerning this ocular affliction, but I will try to enlighten you in as simplest terms as possible about it. Do you remember last week when we talked about conjunctivitis? Well, we can define pterygium as a degenerative process of the conjunctiva, almost triangular in shape that invades the cornea, that triangular fold or membrane that grows from the white part of the eye (internal or external) towards the dark circle (cornea).

Pterygium occurs more abundantly in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world (Latin America and the Caribbean), in persons between the ages of 20-40 years and in most instances working in the open air exposed to the sun and irritants, in smokers and occasionally with a family history of the same.

Why do the patients come to see us? In the majority of cases they would have noted a membrane or growth in the eye that is sometimes irritated; it continues to grow, with redness of the eye, photophobia (sensitivity to light), watery eyes and sensation of foreign body.

Pterygium is treated locally with eye drops or surgically depending on its size and/or the symptoms being produced. If the growth is small, of minimal nuisance and with isolated symptoms, the treatment is local with anti inflammatory eye drops and cold compresses several times per day or as prescribed by your ophthalmologist. If however it is small but troublesome, surgery should be considered, as well as when it is so big that is near or in the pupil the only treatment is surgery as irreversible complications such as an opaque cornea resulting in distortion and/or reduction of vision may occur.

Do not forget my fellow reader that if you note any unusual presence in your eye(s) that we have talked about and on reaching 40-45 years of age a visit to your ophthalmologist is compulsory.

• Dr. Pedro A.F. Suarez is a Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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