What is a pterygium?
A pterygium is a small fleshy growth of tissue on the front surface of the eye. It is usually raised and red. It can increase in size over time, and spread across onto the cornea. It occurs in response to sunlight exposure, usually acquired during childhood and early adulthood.
Because pterygia are raised, they can cause ocular irritation and symptoms of dryness or foreign body sensation.
They can result in blurry vision by destabilising the tear film, or through induced astigmatism (by deforming the front of the eye).
They can also become very red and unsightly and cause sufferers distress through their appearance.
Pterygiums never self-correct and over time, continue to grow towards the pupil.
You can elect to manage your pterygium conservatively by regularly applying ocular lubricants. This will help alleviate the irritation. Unfortunately your pterygium will not regress with eye-drops alone.
Surgical removal followed by placement of an autoconjunctival graft is the definitive treatment of pterygium. Dr. Kert will discuss this with you, and together you will decide whether or not to proceed.
Reasons to have your pterygium removed include:
- Documented growth. As the pterygium grows, it will cause permanent scarring which is a concern if it is progressing across your cornea. Growth of the pterygium may in time cause permanent visual loss.
- Redness that is becoming intolerable.
- Pain and discomfort that is becoming intolerable.
Pterygium removal is conducted under assisted local anaesthetic or sometimes under general anaesthesia. The operation usually takes 45-60 minutes and you will feel no pain or discomfort during the procedure.
You will go home with oral pain relief, and an eye pad covering the eye. You do not usually need to stay overnight in the Hospital.
Whilst wearing an eye pad you must not drive a vehicle and you must take care walking down stairs and negotiating gutters.
Dr. Kert will usually see you one week after your operation.
After your operation, your eye will feel very sore for 3-4 days. It will be watery, feel like gritty sand is inside your lids, and your eye will be very sensitive to light.
There will be eye drops to place in your eye after surgery for 8 weeks. We recommend you take one week off from work/normal duties if possible.
Your eye will be red for 6-8 weeks after surgery.
Like any operation, there are risks. Fortunately these are rare.
There is a 1/20 chance of the pterygium growing back after surgery and this usually happens during the healing phase within the first 6 months. If you have a recurrence you may require a second operation. It is important that you continue the drops as recommended and stay out of the sun as much as possible to minimise the chance of recurrence. Wearing a hat and sunglasses when you go outside can help prevent the pterygium from returning.
Other much rarer risks include infection, bleeding, damage to the vision.
Please feel free to speak with Dr.Kert if you have any further questions prior to your operation.