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The P is silent

The other day, I was talking with a client during session. She is a linguist and avid amateur anatomist.

I don’t remember the exact context, but she suddenly blurted out the word “pterygium.”

Neither of us could think of its meaning, although we were sure  it related to those pesky pterygoid muscles.

Pterygoids Wikipedia 

Medial Pterygoids: KenHub on YouTube

Lateral Pterygoids: KenHub on Youtube 

We were both wrong, so it led to this exploration.

A pterygium (the p is silent: pronounced tur-IJ-ee-um) is a growth of pink, fleshy tissue on the conjunctiva, that’s the clear tissue that lines the eyelids and covers the eyeball. It’s the main symptom of a condition called “surfer’s eye” and usually forms on the side of the eye closest to the nose and grows toward the center. When it affects both eyes, it’s known as a bilateral pterygium.

Before a pterygium appears, a related condition called a pinguecula (pin-GWEK-yoo-la) may occur. This is a yellowish patch or bump on the conjunctiva.

American Academy of Ophthamology 

Etymology tidbit: pterygoid comes from the Greek word pteryx, meaning wing and morphs from there to referring to a triangular shape, so:

A pterygium is a triangular growth usually in the inner corner of the eye and

The pterygoid muscle(s) attach to the pterygoid process (triangular in shape) of the sphenoid bone.

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