A pterygium is a condition that affects the cornea and conjunctiva in the eye. It is caused by a growth on the outer coating of the eye (conjunctiva). Once the growth reaches the cornea, it becomes a pterygium.
Surgery is performed to remove the pterygium when it is irritated repeatedly, shows more growth or produces changing astigmatism even without growing towards the pupil.
At the start of eye surgery, the eye is prepared antiseptically- similar to cataract eye surgery. Topical (surface) anesthetic is applied, and the eyelids are drawnback out of the way with a speculum. The pterygium is scraped off the corneal surface, and the fibrous tissue over the sclera (white) of the eye that leads up to the cornea is removed. Leaving the area bare after pterygium removal and letting it “granulate” can promote the recurrence of the pterygium up to 80%, according to some studies. The younger the patient, the more pronounced the healing response, and the higher the rate of recurrence.
There are a number of methods used to reduce the chance of regrowth of the pterygium. At Triangle Eye Physicians, our Raleigh ophthalmologists commonly uses conjunctival tissue from under the eyelid or amniotic membrane to repair the bare surface. Instead of stitching the new tissue in place, well-proven tissue glue is used to secure it, eliminating the irritation and inflammation that accompanies suture material. Our recurrence rate for pterygia (using this method since 2000) is less than 5%.
Sometimes, when a pterygium is recurrent, the aforementioned method is used with the additional application of a drug called mitomycin C at the time of eye surgery. When used in a diluted form, it attenuates the healing response, calms down the surface, and improves the chances of zero recurrence. There are rare complications associated with the use of mitomycin C, so it is typically not used for the first operation on a pterygium.
Learn more about pterygium by watching the following video: