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Pterygium: What you Need to Know

Pterygium is a common eye condition affecting more than 3 million people each year. Noticing symptoms of Pterygium, a growth of pink fleshy tissue on the white of the eye, may be alarming. However, it is important to note that this eye condition is both non-cancerous and treatable. Here is what you need to know if you think you may have Pterygium:

Image via Wikipedia Commons

What Causes Pterygium?

Young adults ages 20-40 are most likely to contract Pterygium. Risk factors include being outside often, increased exposure to ultraviolet light, having light skin and eyes, dry eye, and exposure to irritants such as dust and wind. Men are also more likely to get Pterygium than women.

Symptoms of Pterygium

Most patients will know they have Pterygium because it has physical symptoms. This noncancerous lesion will grow slowly, usually in a triangular shape similar to the image above. The growth can continue to grow until it covers the pupil, at which point the vision will be compromised. While this is not a serious condition, symptoms can become extremely frustrating, causing the need for medical intervention. Symptoms include the feeling of a foreign body in the eye, redness, itchiness, vision changes and dry eye.

Treatment of Pterygium

Treatment for Pterygium differs depending on the severity. In minor cases, your eye doctor will recommend lubricating eye drops, UV protecting sunglasses, and a short course of steroid eye drops. However, if the lesion is causing any discomfort, vision changes, or if the conservative treatment has failed then Pterygium Surgery will be recommended.

Pterygium Surgery

When more conservative treatments have failed, or when vision becomes compromised, a Pterygium Surgery may be performed. This surgery typically takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. This procedure involves removing the Pterygium and then stitching or gluing the patient’s own surface eye tissue or preserved amniotic membrane to fill in the area.

Recovery from Pterygium Surgery

An eye patch will need to be worn to protect the eye for a few days, but patients can return to work shortly after that. Patients will also need to use prescribed eye drops at directed. Patients can return to work and normal activities after 2-3 days.

Complications of Pterygium

After a Pterygium surgery, the main complication to look out for is recurrence of the Pterygium growth. When a graft is utilized in the removal, recurrence only occurs about 5-10% of the time. However, when no graft is utilized after removal, the recurrence rate can be as high as 50%. Most recurrences will occur within 12 months of surgery, so it is important that patients attend all of their follow up appointments.

Prevention of Pterygium

Protect your eyes! Pterygium is also caused Surfer’s Eye, because you can imagine that surfers are usually exposed to UV rays. Wearing UVA and UVB blocking sunglasses is the best prevention against Pterygium. It is important to wear eye protection, even when the sun isn’t out.

Don’t Wait to See the Ophthalmologist

If you think you may have a Pterygium, it is extremely important to see an eye expert. The professionals at Marano Eye Care have extensive experience with Pterygium – both in conservative treatments and surgery. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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