Pterygium

A pterygium (pronounced tuh-rij-ee-uhm) is an abnormal wing-shaped growth of conjunctiva tissue extending across the cornea (the clear window of the front eye). As the pterygium grows across the cornea it can cause irritation, redness and eventually reduced vision. 

normal conjunctiva diagram
Pterygium diagram abnormal conjunctiva growth

Pterygium surgery involves removal of the abnormal growth and transplanting of healthy conjunctiva in its place. Mr Yadav is a Consultant Ophthalmologist who specialises in pterygium removal surgery.  

pterygium cornea conjunctiva before surgery
pterygium cornea conjunctiva after surgery

What is a pterygium?

A pterygium is a benign growth of conjunctiva tissue which extends over the cornea. The cornea is the clear window of the eye and it must remain transparent to allow clear vision. When the conjunctiva starts to grow over the cornea forming a pterygium, this leads to reduced vision and other symptoms such as redness and irritation. 

 

What causes a pterygium?

The main risk factor for pterygium formation is exposure to UV radiation (usually from sunlight). This is why the condition is more common in people who live or have lived in hot, sunny environments. Other causes include exposure to dusty environments, dry eye, water sports, working outdoors and increasing age.   

What are the symptoms of pterygium?

The symptoms of a pterygium can be variable. Common symptoms include irritation, itching, grittiness, watering, redness and unsightly appearance. As the pterygium progresses, it can start to cause reduced or distorted vision.   

How is pterygium treated?

A small pterygium may be best managed conservatively with dry eye drops. If the pterygium is large and unsightly or if it is starting to affect your vision then surgery is advised. 

 

How is pterygium surgery performed?

Pterygium surgery is usually performed under local anaesthesia as a day case procedure. The front of the eye is numbed with drops and an anesthetic injection is given to the conjunctiva. The pterygium is surgically removed from the  cornea and the sclera (white of the eye). A piece of conjunctiva from the top of the eyeball (graft) is transplanted to fill the defect left by the pterygium on the sclera.  The graft is usually stuck down with special glue and absorbable stitches.  A contact lens is placed to keep the eye comfortable.  

What are the risks of pterygium surgery?

The main risk is recurrence of the pterygium but this is very rare with the modern conjunctival autograft technique. The first couple fo days after the procedure can be a bit painful as the cornea heals but can be managed with regular painkillers.