A pterygium is a dense, fibrous, (non-cancerous!) growth that occurs on top of the clear, thin membrane that lies over the white part of the eye, also called the sclera. It is a growth caused by overexposure to the earth’s natural elements (dust and wind) and cannot be cured with glasses or contacts.


Pterygiums are found mostly in people that spend long periods of time outdoors, and although they are often confused with cataracts, pterygiums require different treatment. A pterygium can form on one or both eyes, and can come from one or both corners of the eye.

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Men are more commonly affected than women and pterygiums tends to occur more frequently in the 20- to 40-year age group. It is quite rarely seen in children. Despite being commonly referred to as a surfer’s eye, a pterygium is also seen in farmers, landscapers and fishermen. Workers involved in any outdoor occupation are at the greatest risk, particularly if they live close to the equator, or at higher altitudes such as here in Colorado.

What are the Symptoms of a Pterygium?

  • Burning or itching eye(s)
  • A gritty feeling similar to ‘dirt in the eyes’
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Visual disturbances with larger growths

How are Pterygiums Treated?

At ICON Eyecare, the removal of a pterygium is a simple, in-office procedure that only takes a few minutes. Doctors administer a local anesthetic to help you remain comfortable throughout the procedure.

Following the removal, you will receive an antibiotic ointment and an eye patch which should be worn overnight. A return visit to our office is required the day after the procedure for a brief follow-up treatment. There is very little downtime associated with pterygium removal and most patients are able to return to normal activity the next day.