The prevalence and risk factors for pterygium in an adult Chinese population in Singapore: the Tanjong Pagar survey

Am J Ophthalmol. 2001 Feb;131(2):176-83. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(00)00703-0.


Purpose: To determine the prevalence and risk factors for pterygium in the Chinese population of Singapore.

Methods: A population-based survey was conducted in Singapore, an island located 1 degree north of the equator with a stable tropical climate. A disproportionate, stratified, clustered, random sampling procedure was used to select the names of 2000 Chinese people aged 40 to 79 years from the 1996 electoral register in the Tanjong Pagar district of Singapore. Selected subjects underwent a comprehensive interview and ocular examination. Pterygium was diagnosed and graded clinically as grade 1 (transparent), 2 (intermediate), and 3 (opaque). Risks factors associated with pterygium and grade 3 pterygium were evaluated with logistic regression models.

Results: From a total of 1717 eligible subjects, 1232 (71.8%) were examined. There were 120 people with either unilateral (n = 70) or bilateral (n = 50) pterygium, equivalent to an overall prevalence of 6.9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.2, 8.8) in the Chinese population aged 40 and older. The prevalence increased linearly with age (chi-square test of trend P <.001) and was higher among men than women (age-adjusted odds ratio [OR], 4.2; 95% CI, 2.5, 6.9). Men aged 70 and above had the highest overall prevalence of 25.4% (95% CI, 18.2, 19.4), but pterygium was not seen in women aged 40 to -49 years. In multivariate analysis, ptergyium was independently associated with increasing age (OR, 7.8; 95% CI, 3.2, 18.8 for persons 70 to 81 years, compared with 40 to 49 years), male sex (OR, 5.1; 95% CI, 2.9, 9.3) and certain occupations; factory workers, production workers and machine operators (OR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.5, 6.3), as well as laborers and agricultural workers (OR, 3.3; 95% CI, 1.6, 7.0) had higher risks, compared with professionals and office workers. Grade 3 pterygium (n = 36) was also independently associated with male sex (OR, 11.6; 95% CI, 3.5, 38.6) and similar occupations but was not related to age.

Conclusions: The prevalence of pterygium in Singapore is 7% among Chinese aged 40 years and older. Independent associations with increasing age, male sex, and occupations linked to outdoor work and other exposures suggest a multifactorial cause of this condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian People*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Pterygium / diagnosis
  • Pterygium / epidemiology*
  • Pterygium / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Singapore / epidemiology