Abu Dhabi: As the UAE enters the hottest part of its summer, doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi are warning residents of the effect that sunny, dry and dusty conditions can have on their eyes.

Pterygium is a preventable eye condition caused by chronic exposure of the eye to sunlight, heat and dust. Characterised by an abnormal growth of mucous membrane over the front of the eyeball, pterygia can cause irritation, redness and tearing. Left untreated, the condition can obscure a person’s vision by growing over the pupil or causing a change in the way the eye focuses.

Globally, pterygia are is estimated to affect around one in 10 people, and the condition is particularly prevalent in the Middle East, given the sunny, dry and dusty conditions in the region. The condition is most common in adult men.

“Pterygium is particularly common in the UAE as it is closely linked to sunny, dry, and dusty conditions. The condition is preventable by protecting your eyes from sunlight as well as wind and dust by wearing sunglasses. I urge people to get screened so that we can help them manage the condition or even prevent it from developing,” said Dr Brian Armstrong, an ophthalmologist at the hospital.

Pterygium can be diagnosed by a trained ophthalmologist following a simple examination of the patient’s eye. Most cases can be managed by prescribing artificial tears to lubricate the surface of the eye. Once diagnosed, patients should schedule a check-up every six to 12 months to monitor for progression of the condition.

If a patient’s condition progresses to the point that it interferes with the person’s vision, either due to astigmatism or growth over the pupil, he/she can be referred for surgery to remove the growth from the surface of the eye.

“Pterygium can be very uncomfortable and, as it progresses, can threaten eyesight. Once it develops, we can prescribe medication to manage the condition and, in advanced cases, we can perform surgery to remove the growth from a patient’s eye. Protecting your eyes is a simple way to avoid needing treatment and the discomfort that the condition can cause,” Dr Armstrong added.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute offers digital imaging, laser and surgical procedures. It also provides medical and surgical treatments ranging from laser vision to procedures for more serious ophthalmic conditions in both adults and children.