What is a pterygium?

A pterygium is a wing shaped growth of tissue across the cornea, which is the clear window at the front of the eye.

It nearly always forms on the part of the cornea, which is visible when the eye is open. It is most often occurs in people who have lived in a hot dusty country or have worked outdoors for many years. It may be due to drying of the eye. It is not a cancer, but it can get slowly larger with time.

In the early stages the eye may feel uncomfortable and look slightly red but vision is unaffected. However, if the pterygium grows a lot, it may blur the vision, although this is unusual.

What treatment is there for pterygium?

If the pterygium is small, no treatment is required. If the eye is uncomfortable, lubricating drops and / or ointment may help. 

If the pterygium advances until it is at the edge of the pupil or if it is enlarging and very uncomfortable, it is best to have it surgically removed. This is usually performed under local anaesthesia as a day case in the operating theatre. The pterygium is scraped off the cornea and the sclera (white of the eye). A piece of conjunctiva from under your upper lid is removed and grafted onto the bare sclera, but the cornea is left to heal by itself. Only absorbable stitches are used. These do not have to be removed but will dissolve and fall out over the next few weeks. The healing period after the operation can be  upto 2 months, and post operative eye drops are routinely used during this period.