Eye Health

22 November 2010

Pterygium, the filmy membrane

Many South Africans have a thin, filmy membrane with tiny surface blood vessels on the white of their eye, extending from the nasal side towards their iris.


Symptoms of irritation such as redness, burning, scratching, dryness and itch are common and are nothing to worry about if they occur only occasionally and are not too severe. Symptoms tend to be more troublesome in the early years when the pterygium is actively growing.

Self treatment

See your ophthalmologist if

  • Your symptoms are not adequately relieved by the eye drops above.
  • Your symptoms recur frequently.
  • There is pus in the eye or the eyelids stick together on waking in the morning.
  • The pterygium covers part of the iris and grows onto the cornea and towards the pupil.
  • You have any deterioration of vision.
  • You would like the pterygium to be removed for cosmetic reasons.


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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