What is a pterygium?
A pterygium is a wing shaped growth of tissue across the cornea, which is the clear window at the front of the eye.
It is most often occurs in people who have lived in a hot dusty country or have worked outdoors for many years. It is not a cancer, but it can get slowly larger with time.
How does a pterygium affect the eye?
In the early stages the eye may feel uncomfortable and look slightly red but vision is unaffected. However, if the pterygium grows a lot, it may blur the vision.
What treatment is there for pterygium?
If the pterygium is small, no treatment is required. If the eye is uncomfortable, lubricating drops and / or ointment may help.
If the pterygium advances until it is at the edge of the pupil or if it is enlarging and very uncomfortable, it is best to have it surgically removed.
What is the surgery for pterygium?
This is usually performed under local anaesthesia. You can eat and drink normally before the operation .The eye is numbed with drops and local anaesthetic injection. The eyelids are held open during the surgery by a speculum. The pterygium is scraped off the cornea and the sclera (white of the eye). A piece of conjunctiva from under your upper lid is removed and grafted onto the bare sclera, but the cornea is left to heal by itself. Only absorbable stitches are used. These do not have to be removed but will dissolve and fall out over the next few weeks. The eye will be covered with a pad.
What happens after the operation?
You will be given drops to use in the eye once the dressing is removed. These drops need to be continued for several weeks. Do not stop the drops until the clinic doctor tells you to.
The eye may feel quite sore for a few days. You can take painkilling tablets regularly.
What problems are there after surgery?
- Pain – this should settle within a few days with painkiller.
- Redness – the eye may look redder for a few days after surgery but will gradually improve with time.
- Side effects from drops – occasionally an allergy develops, or a pressure problem in the eye.
- Dry eye – lubricating drops may be required after the surgery.
- Double vision – scarring of the eye surface and eye muscles can occasionally cause restricted movement of the eye and double vision, which may require further treatment.
- Recurrence – the pterygium could come back again. This is much less common with modern surgery. Re-operation may be possible.