Prevalence of pterygium in indigenous Australians within central Australia: the Central Australian Ocular Health Study


  • Performed at the Department of Ophthalmology, Alice Springs Hospital, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.

  • Financial disclosure: Partial equipment grants for the study were received from:

  • • Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia: B & L Lowe Grant

  • • NH&MRC: Centre for Clinical Research Excellence

Dr John Landers, Flinders Medical Centre, Flinders Drive, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia. Email:


Background:  To determine the prevalence of pterygium within the indigenous Australian population living in central Australia.

Design:  Clinic-based cross-sectional study.

Participants:  A total of 1884 individuals living in one of 30 remote communities within the statistical local area of ‘Central Australia’. This equated to 36% of those aged ≥20 years and 67% of those aged ≥40 years within this district.

Methods:  Participants aged 20 years or over were recruited as they presented to the eye clinic at each remote community. Slit-lamp examination was performed, and the presence of a pterygium or evidence of previous pterygium surgery was recorded.

Main Outcome Measures:  The prevalence of a pterygium in one or both eyes is presented.

Results:  Pterygium was present in one or both eyes of 9.3% of individuals aged 40 years or older. Right and left eyes were affected equally (χ2 = 0.19; P = 0.91). There was a significant association between the presence of a pterygium and age (t = 3.99; P < 0.0001). There was no association with gender (χ2 = 1.06; P = 0.30).

Conclusion:  Pterygium was present in a significantly higher proportion of indigenous Australians compared with non-indigenous Australians. This is similar to previous findings of the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program and may be due to a difference in proportion of hours spent outdoors and consequent exposure to ultraviolet radiation.