What is a pterygium (Surfer’s Eye)?
A pterygium is a wing-shaped growth extending from the moist conjunctiva over the cornea of the eye. Pterygiums also cause dryness and irritation of the eye and if left untreated can grow over the pupil blinding some patients.
Am I a candidate for pterygium surgery?
Generally speaking, pterygium is non-cancerous and often develops very slowly. These patients may not need or want surgery unless the growth is very uncomfortable for them. But a large or growing pterygium will often cause a gritty, itchy, or burning sensation, or the feeling that you have something in your eye. The growth can also become inflamed reddening the white.
In more serious cases, a pterygium invades the cornea. This can actually distort the shape of the front surface of the eye, causing astigmatism and other issues that can affect the patient’s vision. In all of these cases, surgery is necessary to remove the growth.
Causes of Pterygium
Some of the many factors that can cause pterygiums include exposure to high sun and ultraviolet light. People who work outdoors or are welders are more likely to develop pterygiums. There can be genetic causes of pterygiums that cause inherited pterygium formation. Some studies have found evidence of viruses causing pterygiums to form.
To prevent pterygiums from developing or growing, you can do one of the following:
- Avoiding sun exposure
- Wearing sunglasses
- Wearing a hat
- Using eye lubricants
Associated episodes of infections and inflammation of pterygiums are treated medically.
When does a pterygium require surgery?
Pterygiums should be removed when they are growing, cause discomfort and inflammation, become unsightly, or threaten to cover the pupil and impair vision.
pterygium surgery procedure
For pterygium surgery, the patient is placed under local anesthesia — both light oral sedation and local anesthesia on the eye itself. Then Dr. Sondheimer carefully peels away the pterygium and removes a portion of the surrounding conjunctival tissue. Next, the area where the growth was removed is scraped with a blade and an abrasive burr to remove any remaining vascular attachments that may remain where the growth was. Then a tissue graft is attached on the excision site. It is placed with an adhesive mixture, usually thrombin and fibrinogen. Sutures are not required to hold to the graft in place. Using this graft reduces the risk of recurrence dramatically.
We remove pterygiums from the moist, peripheral conjunctiva and the cornea. Generally, we will administer a medicine to help prevent recurrence. Next, a graft of amniotic membrane is used to cover the removed diseased conjunctival tissue.
What are the chances that a pterygium will recur after surgery?
Studies have demonstrated that 95% to 99% of first time pterygiums don’t come back after surgery. Recurrent pterygiums are more likely to recur after surgery. We offer post-operative medications to prevent and treat recurrence. A minority of patients will require additional surgery.
Will the pterygium be noticeable after surgery?
Most pterygiums are not noticeable after the eye heals from surgery, but sometimes redness or scarring can be visible.
What is recovery like after pterygium surgery?
The surgery typically takes just 20-30 minutes. Afterward, you may need to wear an eye patch for one to two days. You’ll have some soreness for the first week following surgery, and there may also be redness for the first couple of weeks. Your eye will return to normal appearance within 2-3 weeks. You can usually return to work and normal activities in a few days.
It’s important to really concentrate on eye protection for the first 12 months after your surgery. Most pterygium regrowth happens during this period. Always wear wraparound sunglasses when outdoors.
results of pterygium surgery
Using the no-stitch graft method employed by Dr. Sondheimer has dramatically reduced recurrence of pterygium, but it is still a possibility. As noted, this will usually occur within the first year after your initial surgery, if it is going to happen. We’ll provide you will steroid eyedrops to use for several weeks or even months. They’ll ease inflammation in your eye and make it less likely for a new lesion to form.
Pterygium Before & After
risks of pterygium surgery
This surgery with Dr. Sondheimer generally has excellent outcomes, with the white healing to the extent that the surgical site can’t be seen. But there is the risk of recurrence, particularly if you’re younger and your eyes continue to be exposed outdoors. Still, recurrence of pterygium is less than five percent. For an additional five percent, the location of the surgery remains red. Other risks are quite rare, but they include eye swelling, double-vision, prolonged redness, and eye infections.
Regular eye exams with Dr. Sondheimer help ensure the best outcome with this procedure.