What Is a Pterygium
Pterygium (pronounced tur-IJ-ee-um) is a growth on the cornea (the clear front window of the eye) and the conjunctiva — the thin, filmy membrane that covers the white part of your eye (sclera). This growth is noncancerous and is fairly common.
A pterygium (also known as surfer’s eye or farmer’s eye) is a triangular-shaped growth of fleshy tissue on the white of the eye that eventually extends over the cornea. This growth may remain small or grow large enough to interfere with vision. A pterygium can often develop from a pinguecula.
Some pterygia may become red and swollen on occasion, and some may become large or thick, making you feel like you have something in your eye. If a pterygium is large enough, it can actually affect the shape of the cornea’s surface, leading to astigmatism.
It is not entirely clear what causes pterygia and pingueculae to develop. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is believed to be a factor in the development of these growths. Other factors believed to cause pterygium are dry eye and environmental elements such as wind and dust.
Symptoms of pterygium may include:
- Gritty feeling
- Sensation of a foreign body in the eye
- Blurred vision
The most often performed surgery is one that uses the patient’s own conjunctiva (surface eye tissue) or preserved amniotic membrane (placenta) to fill the empty space created by the removal of the pterygium. In this procedure, the pterygium is removed and the conjunctiva or amniotic membrane is glued onto the affected area.
Pterygium surgery typically takes 30 minutes. After surgery, patients usually need to wear an eye patch for a day or two. But they can return to work or normal activities (avoiding swimming and eye rubbing) after a few days.
Often, patients are told to use steroid eyedrops for several weeks or months. This can reduce inflammation and the chance of pterygium recurrence.
The main complication of pterygium surgery is recurrence after removal. Without a conjunctival or amniotic graft, the recurrence rate can be as high as 50%. Pterygium removal with a conjunctival or amniotic graft is associated with a much decreased recurrence risk of 5%-10%.