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What is a pterygium?

A pterygium is a benign growth over the front of the eye.  It is a whiteish growth from the nasal corner of the eye which grows slowly over the cornea (clear front of the eye) and eventually toward or over the pupil (the black part of the eye).  It can cause irritation, itching, tearing, and a foreign body sensation if it gets inflammed.  Also, it can obscure vision if it grows completely over the pupil, or cause astigmatism because it changes the shape of the front of the eye.

What causes a pterygium?

We don’t know exactly what causes these growths.   It is more common in people who live near the equator, in hot or dry climates.  It is thought to be related to sun, wind, or sand exposure over time.  Also, possibly from exposure to UV light.

How can it be prevented?

Prevention is mostly wearing sunglasses if you work outside or live in regions where pterygium is common.  Protecting the eyes from sun, wind, and sand.

Pterygium Treatment

If the growth becomes irritating and constantly red, anti-inflammatory eye drops and artificial tears can be prescribed by your eye doctor.  If growth interferes with vision or causes chronic irritation, we can remove the pterygium with surgery. Alternatives to surgery are observation and eye drops.

Risks of Surgery

1. Recurrence

Usually a graft is placed when the pterygium is removed.  This graft is either artificial or part of the white tissue of your eye is rotated or moved to cover the area where the pterygium is removed.  This lowers the rate of recurrence, but these growths can always recur.  If no graft is placed the risk of recurrence is 30%, so we alsways place tissue over the site of the surgery.

2. Red eye

The eye may not look completely white even after a successful surgery.  It may also take up to 6 months for the eye to look less red.

3. Double vision

4. Infection

5. Loss of vision

6. Bleeding

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