Pterygium is a common, usually not serious, eye condition that is caused by UV ray damage from exposure to the sun. While this condition can affect anyone, it is often referred to as surfer’s eye. Because the harmful UV rays reflect against the water, it makes people who spend a lot of time outside and in the ocean more susceptible.
If you have pterygium, a growth of pink, fleshy tissue will develop on the whites of your eyes. This growth typically begins growing on the side closest to your nose, before it develops towards the center of your eye. While pterygia growths are non-cancerous, they can cause discomfort, blurry vision, and can permanently disfigure the eye if not cared for properly. Below are four signs it may be time to schedule your complete eye exam to prevent permanent damage.
Burning and itching are two common symptoms of pterygium. If you are experiencing either of these mild symptoms, or you are experiencing worsening of the inflamed condition, it can be treated non-surgically. Some of your options include lubricating eye drops or ointments, occasional use of vasoconstrictor eye drops, and a short time use of steroid eye drops.
If your growth interferes with your vision, your best option to have it removed may be surgery. It’s important to note that pterygium removal can induce astigmatism, especially if you already have astigmatism. It’s crucial that you speak with your eye doctor if your vision is fuzzy or blurry.
Side effects like dry eyes, redness, and feeling like there is something foreign in your eye may be considered cosmetic side effects, but you can still seek treatment. If you are bothered by the appearance of your eye or by comments from others, your eye doctor will advise what treatment option is best for you.
If non-surgical treatment options have not worked for you, your eye doctor may recommend surgery. This is to ensure no permanent damage will be done to your eyes.
Pterygium surgery may be performed at your doctor’s office or in an operating room. The surgery usually takes thirty to forty-five minutes and requires minimal downtime. You may need to wear an eye patch during your recovery time (for about one or two days). Most patients will be able to return to normal activities the day after surgery.
While there are several different surgical techniques available, the most common surgery performed uses your own surface eye tissue, or conjunctiva, to fill the empty space that the pterygium once inhibited. To prevent pterygium regrowth after surgery, your eye surgeon may glue a piece of surface eye tissue on the affected area. This method is called autologous conjunctival autografting, and it has been proven to safely and effectively reduce your risk of pterygium recurrence.
Mitomycin C can help limit abnormal tissue growth and scarring during your healing process. You may be asked to topically apply this drug at the time of surgery and/or after surgery is over. After surgery, your eye surgeon may prescribe steroid eye drops to decrease swelling and prevent regrowth. It is also important that you protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses to decrease your chances of pterygium recurrence. Your eye doctor should closely monitor your eyes for the first year after surgery to make sure a new growth does not appear.
If you are experiencing any common symptoms of pterygium or are experiencing any discomfort in your eye, it is advised that you schedule an appointment with an eye doctor as soon as possible. Here at Marano Eye Care, we spend a significant amount of time with our patients so we can learn their needs, concerns, and address the individual situation as best as possible. Be sure to contact us today to schedule an appointment!