A pterygium (“wing of tissue”) is an overgrowth of tissue from the white of the eye over onto the cornea (crystal window of the eye). It usually appears like a pink fleshy growth on the nasal part of the eye.
It is highly unlikely that your pterygium could blind you but if it is neglected and grows all over the cornea it can seriously interfere with vision.
This is not a cancer but in about 10% of pterygia there may be some findings that suggest a pre-cancerous change when the specimen removed at surgery is looked at by the pathologist. This does not mean that cancer will develop later on but reflects the excessive exposure to sunlight that is common to the development of pterygium and to cancer on the surface of the eye. On the other hand pterygia can mimic a conjunctival cancer and vice versa.
A pterygium can only be removed by surgery. Currently, there are no eye drops to eradicate a pterygium.
The duration of surgery depends on many criteria such as size and location of the pterygium, age and cooperation of the patient, as well as other factors such as sutured or glued surgery.
If this is the first removal of your pterygium, it will take about 20 to 30 minutes. If it has been removed previously it may take longer depending on the complexity of recurrence.
If pterygia are simply removed and the area left to scar, recurrence will occur in approximately one third of all patients. Covering the area with a piece of conjuctival tissue reduces the recurrence rate down to approximately 1%.
You will not be able to splash water in your eyes ( as in head bath, face wash, swim etc) for about a month. You may have difficulty with work or driving for a few days to a week because of temporary double vision, watering and irritation.
The surgery consists of removing the pterygium and replacing it with a graft of healthy conjunctival tissue, which is either glued into place or anchored with sutures.
A small pterygium can be removed under topical anesthesia (eye drops). A larger one or a recurrent pterygium is best operated under local anesthesia and mild sedation. Usually tablets for pain will be needed for 1-3 days only.
Immediately after surgery you may experience a foreign body sensation, pain and watering in the eyes. Healing after this type of surgery may take a few weeks, during which you will use prescription eye drops. The eye may be slightly swollen and blood shot for about 3-4 weeks, but improves in comfort and appearance over time.
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