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What is pterygium?

Eye with PterygiumPterygia are non-cancerous growths on the eye surface thought to be related to prolonged ultraviolet exposure from the sun. Given the Australian climate and lifestyle, we have one of the highest incidences of pterygia in the world.. A pterygium originates on the conjunctiva (layer just outside the sclera or white part of the eye), and grows across the cornea. The most common location is the inside corner of the eye, near the nose, however, they can occur on the outer side. In the early stages, pterygia are usually asymptomatic. In some cases, they are easily irritated, becoming red and sore frequently. Growing larger, they can affect vision, either by inducing tension or irregularity on the cornea, or by physically obscuring the pupil.

A pingueculum is a white or yellow mound of tissue near the inside or outside edge of the cornea. These may also become inflamed, although they do not grow across the cornea and therefore do not obscure the vision.

What is the management of pterygium?

For pinguecula, and early/mild cases of pterygia, observation is usually recommended in conjunction with optimization of the surface of the eye. This is to prevent inflammation, which can stimulate growth and is achieved by using lubricant eye drops frequently and wearing sunglasses and hat when outdoors.

For more severe cases with inflammation causing significant redness or irritation, a short-term course of anti-inflammatory eye drops may be required.

In the most extreme cases where vision is disturbed or symptoms are severe, surgery is recommended. This is an outpatient procedure under local anaesthetic in which the pterygium is removed and replaced with a tiny transplant harvested from the conjunctiva (outer layer of the eye) up underneath your eyelid.

Dr. Beltz will examine your eye thoroughly, with particular consideration to other possible diagnoses, such as skin cancers on the surface of the eye. Photographic records will be kept in order to identify future change. Surgery, if needed, generally produces excellent cosmetic results with a low risk of recurrence.