Pterygium is the growth of a white or skin-coloured tissue over the cornea, the surface of the eye. It commonly grows out from the inner corner of the eye towards the centre.
The exact cause of pterygium is unknown, but it is associated with excessive exposure to wind, UV rays in sunlight and irritants in the environment like dirt or sand. It is twice more likely to occur in men than women.
How does pterygium affect me?
If you have a pterygium you may notice:
- Your eye is red and sore.
- Your eye is dry and irritated.
- Your eye feels itchy, with a sensation of dirt, grit or sand.
- Your astigmatism is increasing.
In advanced cases the pterygium can affect vision by growing over the pupil blocking light from entering the eye.
How can pterygium be treated?
In its early stages, artificial tears can be used to moisten the eye and keep it comfortable. Steroid eyedrops may be used to reduce any inflammation if necessary.
In more advanced stages of pterygium where it grows to cover the pupil and block vision, or is causing significant astigmatism, surgery is recommended to remove it.
This involves a minor procedure with a risk of less than a one in 5000 chance of experiencing visual problems after surgery. It is done under local anaesthesia as a day surgery and you will be able to return home within the same day of treatment.
During surgery, the pterygium is removed from the cornea. The bare area is then covered with a normal piece of the conjunctiva, the skin from the eye’s white surface (conjunctival graft). Medical grade glue is used to hold to graft in place.
After your operation you will be given eyedrops to reduce the inflammation. You may feel that your eye is scratchy. This is because the surface of the eye is uneven and the feeling should go away after one to two weeks. Redness after surgery will also go away in about 3-4 weeks.
The chance of the growth recurring after surgery will be minimized if UV exposure is reduced.