A pterygium is a growth of thickened tissue that covers the white part of the eye; typically it starts to grow near the inside corner of the eye. The exact cause of a pterygium is unknown, however it is believed genetic factors may be important as pterygia tends to run in families. Exposure to UV rays from the sun is also thought to play an important role in its development; risk factors include living in a tropical environment, working outdoors or spending a lot of time in the sun.
A pterygium is composed of conjunctival tissue and can develop in several different ways:
- Cause irritation of the eye, tearing and discomfort
- Obstruct or blur vision as a pterygium can grow large enough to cover the pupil
- Interfere with comfort when wearing contact lenses
- Cause astigmatism by pulling on the cornea and distorting its shape
- Appear red and unattractive to look at
Before deciding to proceed with surgery your ophthalmologist will discuss the procedure with you, your medical history, and make sure you understand the risks, benefits and limitations of treatment.
The procedure involves your ophthalmologist making a small cut in the conjunctiva surrounding the pterygium. The pterygium is then lifted upwards so it is clear of the cornea, and the lower end of the pterygium is cut so that the entire growth can be removed.
In order to reduce the risk of regrowth your ophthalmologist may supplement the operation with any of the following:
- Conjunctival autograft – this involves a small portion of the conjunctiva being taken from the upper eyelid, which is then attached to the site of the excised pterygium
- Beta radiation – this is when a small amount of radiation is applied to the affected site in order to suppress the regrowth of any remaining cells
- Mitomycin C – this is a special medication that is applied to the eye to suppress the growth of abnormal cells
If you are suffering from a pterygium and require pterygium surgery then please get in touch with us today to discuss your options, give us a call on (02) 9868 2333.