Cornea and external disease specialist Dr. Sharlene Noguera (left) with Myleen AranFor 16 years, Myleen Aran suffered from pterygium, an eye condition that affected her self-esteem and the way she lived her life.
Often referred to locally as pugita, pterygium is a fleshy, benign tissue that grows on the surface of the eye. It usually starts on the white part of the eye (sclera) closest to the nose. Over time, it grows bigger and extends onto the cornea.
According to Asian Eye Institute cornea and external disease specialist Dr. Sharlene Noguera, the exact cause of pterygium is yet to be determined, but studies show that it is often associated with prolonged exposure to the sun, dust and wind.
“Those who live in tropical countries and spend too much time outdoors like surfers, traffic enforcers, seafarers and construction workers usually develop it,” Noguera says.
While it does not cause permanent blindness, a large pterygium can interfere with vision and distort the cornea, leading to blurry vision due to astigmatism.
Aran owns an online shop that used to sell all sorts of products, but later focused on organic beauty soaps. Because of her eye condition, she could not promote her wares.
Different management and treatment options are available, depending on the size, symptoms and causes of pterygium. Lubricating eye drops are prescribed to reduce redness, irritation or inflammation, while surgery is done if it causes discomfort and is a threat to vision.
In 2016, Aran decided to finally undergo surgery. Noguera performed conjunctival autograft, wherein the fleshy growth was removed and the affected area was grafted with normal eye tissue.
“We want to be able to remove the growth and prevent it from coming back. Conjunctival autograft has been proven safe and effective in reducing the risk of pterygium recurrence,” explains Noguera.
Noguera also urges patients to consider the altitude, setting and time of the day when going out.
“UV levels are higher on mountains, in wide open spaces with highly reflective surfaces like water, snow or sand. They’re greater when the sun is high, usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It is also important to remember that you can be exposed to UV radiation through artificial sources like welding machines and tanning beds.
“Protect your eyes even on cloudy days. Wear UV-coated prescription or performance eyewear or sunglasses. A yearly visit to your ophthalmologist is also good to monitor your eye condition.”
Today, Aran no longer experiences discomfort and is more confident than ever.
“I wish I had done it sooner. I no longer wear glasses. Plus, I’m happier and more confident to post my photos regularly and promote my products. With proper eye care and protection, and regular monitoring by Dr. Noguera, I don’t worry about getting pterygium again,” she says. (Story/Photo by: Charizze Henson)