Pterygium Surgery

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Pterygium is believed to be a result of excessive exposure to the UV rays of the sun during childhood. Dry and dusty environmental conditions may also contribute to the development of the condition.

Pterygium is an abnormal growth of tissue over the eye. It is often progressive and encroaches over the cornea, which can ultimately cause you to experience distorted or lost vision, and have symptoms of excessive tearing and irritation. Our eye doctors and corneal specialist at New Eyes offer advanced treatment options to control the effects of pterygium.

What Are the Symptoms of Pterygium?

Pterygium has a number of symptoms which can have an effect on your vision and your day-to-day livelihood. These symptoms include:

What Causes Pterygium of the Eye?

Pterygium is believed to be a result of excessive exposure to the UV rays of the sun during childhood. Dry and dusty environmental conditions may also contribute to the development of the condition. Pterygium is typically more common in people who spend a lot of time in tropical climates and those who are out in the sun for extended periods.

What Is the Difference Between a Pterygium and a Pinguecula?

Pterygia and pingueculae can appear somewhat similar (and typically have the same types of symptoms and causes), but they are actually two different conditions. The main difference between the two is that a pinguecula generally does not grow on the cornea. However, it is possible for a pinguecula to develop into a pterygium, which can obstruct vision if it extends into the cornea. Both conditions normally occur in the corner of the eye, near the nose, but have some unique distinctions that set them apart. A pinguecula often looks like a creamy, chalky, or yellow colored spot on the white of the eye, and can usually be treated with eye drops. Conversely, a pterygium appears to be fleshy, pink, and wedge-shaped and may require surgery in some cases.

Can a Pterygium Be Treated Without Surgery?

Small pterygia that are causing patients to experience minor inflammation or irritation in the eye, but no vision impairment, can often be treated with simple eye drops, ointments, or steroid drops. Larger pterygia that are causing problems with vision or debilitating eye irritation may need to have surgery in order to remove them.

What Does Pterygium Removal Surgery Involve?

Pterygium removal surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can often be completed in about 30-45 minutes, but since you will be lightly sedated during the procedure, you will need to arrange transportation to and from surgery. Your eye surgeon will provide you with personalized instructions to help you prepare for surgery. Some patients may be asked to refrain from contact lens use for at least 24 hours before the procedure.

Once the pterygium has been surgically removed, a graft is carefully placed in the affected area to help minimize the chance of regrowth.

It is important to realize that this condition has a high recurrence rate and by using the latest surgical techniques we can optimize the outcomes, but not completely eliminate the possibility of recurrence.

The risk of future eye irritation can also be reduced by wearing adequate protection from the sun and from excessive dust and wind.

Am I a Candidate for Pterygium Surgery?

Pterygium surgery is designed for patients whose pterygia obstructs their vision, causes substantial irritation, or appears cosmetically unfavorable. People generally elect to have pterygium surgery, but when the disease interferes with their vision, surgery can become a medical necessity. Additionally, you must be generally healthy to undergo surgery. Those with glaucoma, dry eyes, thyroid disease, or uncontrolled high blood pressure may not be ideal candidates. One of our New Eyes doctors can talk with you about your specific needs and recommend the best treatment options for you.

What Is Recovery Like for Pterygium Surgery?

After pterygium surgery, you will need to protect your eyes by wearing an eye patch for a few hours. As a result, you will need a ride home from the surgery center. A post-operative appointment is scheduled for the next day to ensure your healing is on track, but otherwise, you can generally expect to rest the day after the procedure. As with all surgeries, some minor discomfort may take place immediately following the operation, but any pain or swelling can be reduced with pain medication and ice packs. Patients can typically resume work, exercise, and physical activity a week after surgery, but it is important to confirm with our doctor to be sure. An experienced New Eyes ophthalmologist can provide you with more detailed post-care instructions upon consultation and appointment.

How Much Does Pterygium Surgery Cost?

At New Eyes, pterygium removal surgery is considered a medical procedure and therefore usually covered by most insurance companies—however, your out-of-pocket cost can vary depending on the complexity of your case, your insurance coverage, and several other factors. To receive a personalized price estimate, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ksenia Stafeeva or one of our other experienced eye surgeons. In cases where vision is obstructed, the procedure may be considered more urgent. Our team can help you review your coverage to determine your individual responsibility. Additionally, we offer payment plans through reputable financing companies that offer low or no interest plans to qualified patients.

Additional Pterygium Surgery Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

While many individuals may not need surgery to address pterygia, surgery is necessary in certain cases. Below, you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding pterygium surgery. Additionally, New Eyes ophthalmologist Dr. Ksenia Stafeeva has provided some helpful information about pterygium causes and treatment on our blog, as part of our Ask the Expert series. If you have further questions, our experienced eye doctors will be happy to address them.

What can I do to prevent the disease from recurring?

While the recurrence rate can be high, there are preventative measures you can take to minimize the risk of pterygium developing again. Limiting exposure to dry, dusty environments, protecting your eyes from UV rays with sunglasses, and using artificial tears to moisten dry eyes has been known to keep pterygia from growing.

Does pterygium surgery leave any scarring?

Once the healing process is complete, any visible scarring should fade and become virtually unnoticeable. The rate of overall healing depends on each patient. Our doctor can give you a realistic assessment of what you can expect from the final results once you have been evaluated.

If you would like more information on pterygium and treatment options to relieve symptoms, please contact New Eyes today.