Suﬀering from these symptoms?
A painless slightly raised, wedge-shaped growth on the corner of the eye
Chronic irritation or redness
What is a pterygium?
This fleshy, triangular, membranous growth usually grows from the inner corner of the eye and towards the cornea. Pterygiae are more likely to develop in people who spend a lot of time in the sun.
How is it treated?
Treatment depends on the size of the pterygium, whether it is growing and the symptoms it is causing. Small pterygia are generally treated conservatively with lubricants or a mild anti-inflammatory drop to reduce swelling and redness. If surgery is required, various Pterygium removal techniques are available.
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More about Pterygium Surgery & FAQ’s
What is a pterygium?
A typically benign (or non-cancerous) growth in the conjunctival layer of the sclera (the white of the eye), a pterygium is a usually wedge-shaped growth that begins to encroach upon the cornea, causing discomfort and blurry vision.
Colloquially referred to as “Surfer’s Eye”, pterygia often develop in surfers and others who spend long periods of time in the water as the condition is caused by repeated exposure to bright light, such as the sunlight reflecting off the water when partaking in watersports without eye protection. However, the UV light from the sun is not the only known cause of pterygia. Pterygia are also thought to be caused by excess exposure of the eyes to wind and dust, and the condition is also a known complication suffered by those with dry eye disease. Being fair-skinned and having blue eyes may also put you at increased risk of developing pterygia, as does being within the age group of 30-50 years old. Pterygia are rarely seen in children.
Symptoms of a pterygium may include the sensation of something being “stuck” in the eye (similar to the experience of having an eyelash stuck in your eye – called a “foreign body sensation”), as well as redness, swelling, discomfort, blurred or distorted vision (possibly due to acquired astigmatism) and disfigurement.
While they typically form in the inner corners of the eyes closest to the nose, they can form on the outer edges of the eyes as well, and can affect one or both eyes simultaneously.
The treatment options available to you will differ depending on the age and location of your pterygium, your own age and ocular as well as overall health, as well as the training and experience of your ophthalmologist. We highly recommend a visit to The Eye Centre for an assessment of your pterygium and the development of a treatment plan.
Treatment options will be influenced by how long you have had your pterygium, whether or not it has stopped growing, whether or not it is invading the corneal space, and whether or not it is causing other symptoms. Small growths may initially be treated conservatively using eye drops, topical medications for application to the eye, and possibly the use of contact lenses and/or other visual aids to both improve vision and protect the eye from further exposure to UV light, dust, and wind. However, it is important to remember that even mild pterygia should be routinely monitored to prevent the development of irreversible vision loss due to growth progression.
If pterygium surgery is required, your ophthalmologist will advise you on the best surgical technique for excision in your unique case, and will make the necessary recommendations for preparation and post-operative treatment. Pterygium surgery may be warranted even in some cases of mild pterygium, if the cosmetic appearance of the growth is causing the patient undue distress. Discuss the possibility of surgical excision with your doctor, despite the size of your pterygium, if that is your preferred treatment.
What to expect from surgery & recovery?
The surgical excision of pterygia can be performed in the ophthalmologist’s office, or in theatre, depending on the complexity of the case, as well as the availability of your ophthalmic surgeon.
Surgery takes approximately 30min per excision, and recovery is relatively rapid. You will be expected to wear an eyepatch for a day or two after surgery, after which you can resume most normal activities. It is, however, worth noting that pterygium excision can induce exacerbated or acquired astigmatism. You may therefore require an updated prescription for your visual aids (spectacles/contact lenses) following surgery, and, depending on your industry, you may want to schedule this appointment and acquire your new visual aids before returning to work. We advise all patients to plan ahead.
Following surgery you will also be expected to schedule routine follow-ups with your surgeon, as well administer topical eye medications and/or drops to reduce the risk of recurrence. You will also need to take extra care to protect your eyes from UV light by wearing sunglasses.
Potential Risks & Complications
Unfortunately, pterygia have a high recurrence rate, partly due to the fact that most individuals return to the same activities which made them prone to the condition in the first place following surgery. In fact, some studies have even found that recurrences are more likely in those who schedule their excisions for the summer months, presumably due to the increased exposure to UV light during the critical healing period.
Other risks include the development or exacerbation of astigmatism, other vision changes, and all the potential risks and complications of general anesthesia also apply.
In this case, the key to prevention and the prevention of recurrence is to wear wraparound sunglasses and take other measures to protect your eyes from UV light and the sun.
For more information on Glaucoma, you can visit any of the sites listed below. Alternatively, or if you are actively seeking diagnosis and/or treatment, you can contact The Eye Centre directly to book your consultation with one of our resident ophthalmologists – because we care about eye care.
What to Expect with Pterygium Surgery – by Healthline.com
Pterygium Surgery – by Martin McCarthy, M.D.