Pterygium close up

Have you ever noticed a growth near the cornea in your eye? You may have a pinguecula or pterygium. These growths are not usually painful, but they cause irritation and may eventually obstruct your vision. Patients with pterygium can have them removed during a procedure performed at IQ Laser Vision .

What is Pterygium?

Pterygium is a growth of the conjunctiva. These growths develop onto the cornea. The conjunctiva is the clear tissue that covers the sclera. The sclera is the white part of the eye. It also lines inside your eyelids.

Ophthalmologists don’t know the exact reason that pterygium develops. Many often associate them with excessive exposure to wind, time spent in the sun without protection from UV rays, or sand.

When the conjunctiva first starts to get thicker, it is a pinguecula. The size of a pinguecula can vary. In some cases, it spreads to the cornea and may affect your vision. Once a pinguecula spreads to the cornea and affects your vision, it is no longer a pinguecula. When this happens, it is now considered pterygium and you’ll need to have it removed.

Pterygium can cause redness, tearing, itching, swelling, and irritation, as well as obstruct your vision.

According to Pterygium: prevalence, demography and risk factors, “Pterygium occurs in about 10-15% of Americans in the United States.”

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How Does Pterygium Excision Work

If you have pterygium, you can have it removed with five easy steps.

Step 1: Before excision begins, you’ll have numbing eye drops applied to your eye. This prevents you from feeling any pain. Your eye is also held open during the excision to prevent you from blinking.

Step 2: Pterygia is removed, clearing up the cornea and removing any obstructions from your vision.

Step 3: The area where the pterygia is located is filled with transplanted tissue. This tissue is from the conjunctiva. It’s painlessly removed using a no-stitches auto-graft self-transplant technique.

Step 4: Your eye will be covered with a patch overnight.

Step 5: Your eye doctor will instruct you on how to apply topical antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops and/or ointment. Your eye will slowly start to return to looking like it normally does over the next 2-3 weeks.

What are the Benefits of Pterygium Excision?

Although you can have pterygia removed for cosmetic reasons, most patients have them removed if their vision is being obstructed. Removing pterygia can also help if you are experiencing any discomfort.

Even if you aren’t experiencing discomfort or vision obstruction, many people choose removal because they are self-conscious. Pterygia and pinguecula can be yellow in color as they grow. This makes them quite noticeable on the whites of the eye.

Removing them only for cosmetic reasons can have a significant benefit. This includes an increase in self-confidence and your ability to interact with others.

Functionally, excision removes the growth from the cornea and provides you with freedom and clearer vision. Pterygium growth on the cornea can also potentially obscure the optical center of the cornea. This can cause more serious problems like inducing astigmatism or corneal scarring.

Using the autograft technique leads to a much shorter procedure time. It also reduces how long it takes you to heal and reduces your chances of having pterygium recur later.

Who is a Candidate for Pterygium Excision?

Close up men's blue eye

Good candidates for pterygium excision must be at least 18 years of age or older and in good health.

There may be times when IQ Laser Vision may need to turn away patients who do not qualify for the procedure. Our number one concern is not about the number of patients we bring in but the quality of care and high level of service we can provide.

That is why it is important to come in for our free consultation. This allows one of the eye doctors at IQ Laser Vision to determine your candidacy and provide the best vision correction options for you.

What Can You Expect After The Procedure?

After the procedure, medical therapy consists of over-the-counter lubricating eye drops, anti-inflammatory drops, and preservative-free ointments. You may experience minor discomfort after the procedure. This will usually go away after a few days. Most patients can resume full activity within 48 hours of having the procedure. It can take 2-3 weeks before your eye will return to looking like it normally does after the procedure.

If you’re at a higher risk for pterygium, you want to wear a wide-brimmed hat, as well as UV-blocking glasses or sunglasses when outdoors. This will help protect your eyes from the sunlight.

What are the Risks of Pterygium Excision?

Because the exact cause of pterygium is not known, you may have another pterygium occur even after removal.

Other risks may include the following:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Scarring of the conjunctiva or cornea

If you have certain medical conditions, these may increase your risks, including:

  • Glaucoma
  • Thyroid disease
  • High Blood Pressure

Any risks will be discussed thoroughly with you before, during, and after your procedure. At IQ Laser Vision, we are dedicated to answering all questions you may have. We want to make sure you are both comfortable and have realistic expectations before having the procedure.

FAQs About Pterygium

A: No. Before the procedure, your eyes will be thoroughly numbed using topical anesthetic eye drops, ensuring you won’t feel a thing during the procedure. If you’re anxious, there are various anti-anxiety medications available as well.

A: Most patients can return to work within 1-2 days. This number does depend on your occupation. Physical activity and exercise should be completely avoided for 2 weeks. This helps to decrease the risk of swelling and irritation.

A: After removal, it is difficult to determine whether you will have another pterygium. Even with cutting-edge techniques, the recurrence rate can be as high as 35%. IQ Laser Vision will provide valuable day-to-day practices to decrease your chances of recurrence.

A: At first, the eye is typically red for about 7-14 days after the procedure. Depending on the patient, after 2-3 weeks your eye will slowly start returning to normal. After you’ve healed, there are not usually any visible scars from the procedure.

A: Contact lenses should not be worn for at least 2 weeks after surgery. This does depend on the extent of your procedure. Your doctor will provide final clearance on when you can wear your contact lenses again.

A: Many pterygium excisions are done for cosmetic purposes and are typically viewed as an elective procedure. If the pterygium interferes with your field of vision, the procedure may be deemed “medically necessary” and some insurance plans may cover a part if not all, of the procedure. IQ Laser Vision will check with your insurance carrier to determine their coverage.

Concerned that you may have a pterygium that’s obstructing your field of vision? Schedule an appointment at IQ Laser Vision in Los Angeles, CA, and other convenient locations today!

This content has been reviewed and approved

Dr. Mattioli had LASIK himself over 22 years ago and has been practicing in Houston since 2001, caring for and treating local and international patients. He has personally treated several Wounded Warriors.

Dr. Mattioli is board-certified by the American Board of Physician Specialties in Ophthalmology. He has performed hundreds of cataract/implant procedures, and 65,000+ laser SMILE, LASIK, and PRK. Additionally, he performs specialized procedures including EVO ICL for myopia and astigmatism, as well as Intacs and crosslinking for keratoconus.

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