A few years ago at my office I had the pleasure of seeing a young girl for her yearly eye exam. She was a first time patient and her vision was perfect so no need for prescription glasses, however, during the health assessment portion of the exam, I noticed something unusual for a 7 year old child. Under magnification, I saw an eye growth on the front of her eye, known as a pterygium. Usually a growth like that occurs in those who are older or have been exposed to a lot of UV.
As a treatment, I prescribed her to wear 100% UV protection whenever she was outdoors, even at recess, to help prevent the pterygium from getting larger and more vascular. To my surprise, her Mother called me a few days later stating that her Elementary school did not allow hats or sunglasses at recess or anytime for that matter. I was beyond shocked to hear this and it made me think that this was because people have not been given enough information on the harmful and irreversible effects that UV exposure has on our eyes. This is one of the reasons I have dedicated GlamBaby to spreading awareness about preventative care for the protection of our children’s eye health.
In response, I wrote her a prescription stating that the young patient must wear 100% UV protected sunglasses whenever she was outdoors and had her Mother take it to her school. After that she had no problems with wearing sunglasses while at recess and it also had others start thinking about protecting their children’s eyes during school hours as well. I am also happy to say that after several years, my wonderful patient is doing well and has not had any increase in the size of her pterygium. There are two major types of eye growths that can occur due to UV exposure and I have outlined what they are and differences below. Each of these growths occur on the whites of the eyes (conjunctiva) and are caused by lots of UV exposure as well as wind and sand. Both can be prevented by wearing trusted 100% UV protected sunglasses when outdoors, even on overcast days.
A pinguecula is a yellowish, raised bump on the surface of your eye that is comprised of protein, fat, or calcium. They usually occur on the conjunctiva near your nose, but can be seen on both sides. Besides aesthetically annoying those who have them, a pinguecula can get red, irritated, itchy, and dry. The treatment is based on the severity which includes artificial tears or in more severe cases, topical steroid drops. With increased UV exposure, a pinguecula can turn into a pterygium.
Pterygiums can begin on their own or start as a pinguecula. It is a fleshy growth on the conjunctiva that will have blood vessels. The pterygium can start to grow onto the iris, colored part of the eye, and cause vision changes and astigmatism. Not only that, but they can also cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, redness, and a feeling like something is in the eye. Treatment for a mild pterygium is the same as a pinguecula, but when it starts to affect the vision and grow onto the iris, surgery can be recommended to remove the tissue. In some cases, the pterygium can grow back after surgery as well.
Help prevent these types of growths in your children by explaining to the them the importance of UV protection. Hats are recommended as well as 100% UV protected sunglasses while outdoors, especially during UV peak hours (10am- 2 pm.). The earlier they start preventative measures, the less likely they will develop such growths.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.