Pterygium surgery involves removal of the abnormal tissue from the sclera and cornea of the eye. Today’s techniques offer a significantly higher success rate than conventional surgery. It is most common in smokers, persons who are exposed to sunlight (UV light), dust, dirt, wind, dryness, and smoke during work, sports, or any outdoor activity. Recurrence rate can be reduced by improving the risk factors.
What is a pterygium?
A pterygium (pronounced te-ri-gi-um) is a triangular shaped lump of tissue, which grows from the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the white of the eye) onto the cornea (clear central part of the eye). A pterygium can occur in both eyes, usually on the nasal side of the eye.
- Pingueculae – The pingueculae is a white, yellow, or fleshy spot with vessels on the conjunctiva that has not yet grown over the cornea. Treatment is the same as for dry eyes. We also recommend sunglasses and antioxidant eye vitamins. The goal is to prevent it from growing.
- Pterygium – The pterygium appears as a white or fleshy spot with blood vessels that grows over the cornea. It can be flat or elevated causing symptoms. At this point surgery is required to remove it.
- Large Pterygium – When the pterygium is large it can also affect vision because it changes the shape of the cornea and can grow to cover the center of the pupil. A residual scar can be seen sometimes after it is removed. Early surgery affords the best results.
What causes a pterygium?
The exact cause of a pterygium is unknown, but they are strongly associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation and hot, dry environments. Pterygiums are more common in the northern parts of Australia and among people such as farmers and surfers who spend a lot of time outdoors, but anyone can develop a pterygium.
Can the pterygium grow back?
A pterygium can grow back after it has been removed. A recurrent pterygium often grows more rapidly than the initial pterygium. Whilst our professionals will use the best treatments to try to prevent recurrence of the pterygium, the risk of this happening in each particular case is not predictable. One in every 10 patients may have a regrowth.
How can a pterygium be prevented?
The best way to reduce the risk of developing a pterygium is to protect your eyes from ultraviolet light. UV radiation can also cause cataracts and other eye diseases, as well as the development of skin cancers. Reducing your sun exposure between 10am and 2pm is highly recommended. Also wearing a hat and wraparound sunglasses will also assist you.
How can a pterygium be treated?
In cases where the pterygium is not actively growing onto the cornea, protecting the eyes from ultraviolet light may often stabilize its growth. In many cases, provided it is not threatening vision, this may be all that is required. In cases where the pterygium is actively growing onto the cornea and threatening to distort the vision, the only effective treatment is surgical removal.