Not all pterygia need to be removed. If yours isn't threatening your sight or causing you significant discomfort, medication alone may be sufficient. Lubricating eye drops, ointments, and possibly a non-steroidal or even a mild steroid eye drop may be prescribed to reduce inflammation associated with a pterygium. If medication doesn't provide sufficient relief, and your pterygium has become large enough to cause trouble, or you'd like it removed for cosmetic reasons, surgery can be helpful.
Pterygium removal surgery eliminates the abnormal tissue from the cornea and sclera (white of the eye). The older surgical techniques left a hole in the conjunctiva (the surface of the eye) where the pterygium was removed. Unfortunately, this led to a high rate of regrowth.
A newer technique fills the gap left by the removal of the pterygium with a graft of tissue removed from under the eyelid. This graft is then sutured in place. A downside of this approach is that the stitches can cause discomfort while the eye heals. This healing period can last for weeks.
The latest advance in ptergyium removal surgery does away with the stitches altogether. The "no-stitch" autograft surgery (the tissue is an "autograft" because you donate it to yourself) uses a special kind of surgical glue made of clotting proteins found in human blood. There's little discomfort, the rate or recurrence is low, and patients are usually back to work within two days of surgery.
For individuals who have had ptergyia removed before or have aggressive ptergyia, medication can be used at the time of the surgery to prevent cells from regrowing. This medication, along with a graft of amniotic membrane, may further reduce recurrence rates of aggressive pterygia. Additionally, amniotic membrane grafts may help minimize pain, reduce inflammation, and improve the cosmetic outcome.
Click here to read Pterygium Removal Surgery: What to Expect.
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