Br J Ophthalmol 94:815-820 doi:10.1136/bjo.2008.151852
  • Review

The science of pterygia

  1. I R Schwab1
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science, University of California Davis, Sacramento, California, USA
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Jay C Bradley, Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Sciences, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th St, STOP 7217, Lubbock, TX 79430-7217, USA; jay.bradley{at}
  • Accepted 17 May 2009
  • Published Online First 9 June 2009


Pterygium is an ocular surface disease of humans attributed to chronic ultraviolet-B exposure. Clinically, the condition involves invasive centripetal growth with associated inflammation and neovascularisation. Previous clinical studies focused primarily on the clinical characteristics and surgical management of pterygia and, because of this, the pathogenesis of pterygia remains incompletely understood. However, considerable progress in this area has been achieved, providing additional insight into this complex disease. This recent evidence implicates antiapoptotic mechanisms, immunological mechanisms, cytokines, growth factors, extracellular matrix modulators, genetic factors, viral infections and other possible causative factors. Limited investigation regarding differences in pathogenesis of primary and recurrent pterygia has been performed. We summarise many of these recent discoveries concerning the pathogenesis of pterygia and describe reported differences between primary and recurrent pterygia.


  • Funding This research was sponsored in part by an unrestricted grant from the Research to Prevent Blindness Inc., New York.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.