Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
St. James University Hospital, Leeds, UK


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 may be due to drying of the eye. 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, although this is unusual.

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. Hypromellose or Liquifilm drops and Simple or Lacrilube ointment are suitable. 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 procedure .The eye is numbed with drops and an injection. 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 are used, but they have to be 2 weeks later. The eye will be covered with a pad for the first 24 hours.

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.The eye may feel quite sore for a few days. You can take analgesic tablets regularly.

What problems are there after surgery?

Pain- This should settle within a few days with painkillers.

Redness - The eye may look redder for a few days after surgery but will gradually improve with time.

Recurrence - The pterygium could come back again. This is much less common (<10%)of the cases) with modern surgery, but is occasionally very troublesome.

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