Pterygium is a pinkish-yellow, triangular-shaped growth of the clear, thin tissue that lays over the white nasal area of your eye (conjunctiva) and grows towards the cornea (front, clear window of the eye). A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth and one or both eyes may be involved.
The cause is unknown, but it is more frequent in people with excess outdoor exposure to sunlight and wind, such as those who work outdoors. Risk factors are exposure to sunny, dusty, sandy, or windblown areas. Farmers, fishermen, and people living near the equator are often affected. Additionally, Pterygium are twice as likely to occur in men than women and very rarely in children.
Symptoms of pterygium include persistent redness, inflammation, foreign body sensation, dry and itchy eyes. In advanced cases the pterygium can affect vision as it invades the cornea with the potential of induced astigmatism and corneal scarring.
As it is associated with excessive sun or wind exposure, wearing protective sunglasses with side shields and/or wide-brimmed hats and using artificial tears throughout the day may help prevent their formation or stop further growth. Golfers, Surfers and other outdoor athletes should wear eye protection that blocks 100% of the UV rays from the water, as is often used by snow-sport athletes.
As it is a benign growth, pterygium typically does not require surgery unless it grows to such an extent that it encroaches the pupil, impacting vision or presents with acute symptoms. Some of the irritating symptoms can be addressed with artificial tears. However, no reliable medical treatment exists to reduce or even prevent pterygium progression. Definitive treatment is achieved only by surgical removal. A variety of options are available for the management of pterygium, from -irradiation to conjunctival auto-grafting or amniotic membrane transplantation with glue and/or suture application. Long-term follow up is required as pterygium may recur even after complete surgical correction.
Experienced San Francisco Bay Area LASIK surgeon and ophthalmologist Dr. Jay Bansal prefers to perform a complete excision of the pterygium followed by an Amniotic membrane graft and/or conjunctival auto-graft. Dr. Bansal uses no stitches during this surgery, instead utilizing tissue glue which has raised the bar in looks and comfort for patients with this condition. You can schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and San Jose.
Conjunctival auto-grafting is a surgical technique that is effective and safe procedure for pterygium removal. When the pterygium is removed the tissue that covers the sclera known as the conjunctiva is also extracted, auto-grafting replaces the bare sclera with tissue that is surgically removed from the inside of the patient’s upper eyelid. That self-tissue is then transplanted to the bare sclera and is fixated using sutures, tissue adhesive, or glue adhesive. Amniotic membrane transplantation is an effective and safe procedure for pterygium removal. Amniotic membrane transplantation offers a practical alternative to conjunctival autograft transplantation for extensive pterygium removal. Amniotic membrane transplantation is tissue that is acquired from the innermost layer of the human placenta and has been used to replace and heal damaged mucosal surfaces including successful reconstruction of the ocular surface. It has been used as a surgical material since the 1940s. Using an amniotic graft facilitates epithelialization, and has anti-inflammatory as well as surface rejuvenation properties. Amniotic membrane transplantation with Tisseel glue application and Mitomycin-C has shown excellent cosmetic outcomes.
Contact an Eye Care Physician
People with pterygium should be seen by an eye care professional annually, so that encroachment on the pupil can be recognized and treated before interference with vision. Call 800-527-3745 for an appointment with a physician at LaserVue Eye Center in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and San Jose if you have a pterygium for evaluation and possible treatment.
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