UV radiation has been well-known of causing damages to eyes. It is associated with some common eye diseases such as cataract at the crystalline lens and age-related macular degeneration at the retina. However, the crystalline lens and retina are relatively internal eye structures. When eyes are exposed under sunlight, the external part of the eye should receive even more UV radiation and, of course, this can be a problem. Here I am going to introduce 2 external eye changes related to UV exposure, namely pinguecula and pterygium. What are pinguecula and pterygium? How do they affect our eyes and how to manage them? Now let’s learn more about these 2 disorders.
Introduction of Pinguecula and Pterygium
Pinguecula and pterygium are changes of the cell layer named conjunctiva on the eye-white due to an accumulation of UV exposure. Besides UV, dust, wind, dryness and smoke which are irritation factors to the eyes also promotes pinguecula and pterygium formation. Normally people with pinguecula and pterygium are over 40 years old, and it is more common to find pinguecula and pterygium in elderly because their eyes accumulated more UV absorption. However, young adults can also have these changes if they constantly receive high dosage of UV, such as people who work outdoor or live in high attitude.
Signs and Symptoms of Pinguecula and Pterygium
For pinguecula, it appears as a small yellowish bump on your eye-white. It can happen on both the eye-white close to the nose and the ear. Normally it will not affect the vision but it can inflam, causing redness and irritation. It also disrupts the tear film from evenly spreading across the eye and results in dry eye.
For pterygium, it looks like a trianglar fleshy tissue with a tip pointing towards the centre of the eye. It is more commonly found on the side of the eye-white close to the nose, and it can grow from the eye-white to the cornea if left untreated. Besides affecting appearance, it induces astigmatism and affects vision. It can also give sensations of grittiness and irritation.
Actions to Tackle Pinguecula and Pterygium
For pinguecula, usually it does not need surgical removal as it will not invade the cornea and affect vision. If it causes irritation, your optometrist will recommend artificial tears to lubricate the eye. For pterygium, artificial tears will also be recommended for mild irritation. Patient can also consider surgical removal if they are bothered by pterygium. With the advanced management strategies, pterygium recurrence rate drops from around 40% to lower than 10%.
Although pinguecula and pterygium will not cause serious health issue, they remind us that our eyes are accumulating harm from UV radiation. It is important to protect our eyes from UV, including wearing sunglasses and hats before more sight threatening diseases appear. Also don’t forget to arrange comprehensive eye examination from your optometrist on a yearly basis to ensure your eyes’ health.
By Jeff Tang, Registered (Part I) Optometrist
Eyecare information by Swisscoat Vision Centre
Address : G/F Yuen Yick Building, 27-29 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Appointment :+852 3579 4763
Website : www.swisscoat.com
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