What is a pterygium?
A pterygium is a wing-shaped growth of tissue across the cornea, which is the transparent window at the front of the eye. It nearly always forms on the part of the cornea, which is visible when the eye is open. It most often occurs in people who have lived in a hot, dusty country or have worked outdoors for many years. It may be due to drying of the eye. It is not 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 the vision is unaffected. However, if the pterygium grows a lot, it may cause a decrease in vision.
What treatment is there for pterygium?
If the pterygium is small, no treatment is required. If the eye is uncomfortable, lubricating drops and 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 as a day case in the operating theatre at the Eye Unit. You can eat and drink normally before the operation. The eye is numbed with drops and injection, and the eyelids are held open for you. 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. Absorbable stitches or a specific type of glue is used to keep the graft in place. The eye will be covered with a pad for a day.