What is a Pterygium?
A pterygium or “surfer’s eye” is a non-cancerous growth that develops on the conjunctiva, which is the transparent tissue that covers the eyeball. The pterygium usually starts near the nose and extends towards the pupil. It is pink, fleshy and wedge-shaped.
What are the Symptoms?
Surfer’s eye can affect one or both eyes. Small growths tend not to cause any symptoms, but larger growths do, especially if they are also growing. Symptoms associated with a pterygium include the following:
- Gritty feeling
- Reddened eye
- Burning sensation
In some cases, the pterygium is preceded by a yellowish bump or patch on the conjunctiva. The bump is called a pingecula, and it can become red when irritated.
In severe cases, the pterygium can grow over the pupil or into the cornea. In such cases, the patient develops vision problems like astigmatism.
What Causes It?
Pterygia are usually caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Thus, people who spend a lot of time outdoors in strong sun and don’t wear protective sunglasses are most at risk for developing pterygia. The condition is quite common in surfers and other athletes. Surfer’s eye is most common in young and middle-aged men who live near the equator.
Frequent exposure to irritants like dust and strong winds can also cause a person to develop a pterygium. People with the condition called “dry eye” are also likely to develop a pterygium.
What are the Treatments?
If the pterygium is small and doesn’t pose a threat to the patient’s vision, the doctor will usually prescribe eye drops of some type to reduce redness, swelling and/or irritation. The doctor may recommend over-the-counter drops, or they may prescribe steroid eye drops.
If the pterygium is large and threatens to damage the patient’s vision, the doctor will recommend surgery to have it removed.
What Does Pterygium Surgery Involve?
Pterygium surgery is an outpatient procedure performed right here at the Wichita Vision Institute. The patient will be given a local anesthetic and a sedative to keep them calm and comfortable. While they will be aware of what is happening around them, the patient will not be able to see.
The ophthalmologist may use any of several different techniques to remove the pterygium. To prevent the pterygium from growing back, the surgeon will use a tissue graft taken from the patient to fill the resultant hole. They may use stitches to hold the graft in place. There is, however, a new procedure in which the surgeon uses a “glue” made from clotting proteins taken from the patient’s blood. The new procedure has the advantage of being less painful than the older procedure.
Pterygium surgery usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. The patient will be groggy from the sedation and will therefore have to be taken home. They will have to wear an eye patch for a day or two. The patient will be able to return to work about two days after the procedure. They will have to take steroid eye drops for several weeks or months to prevent the pterygium from growing back.
If surfer’s eye is something that you need to fix, call and schedule a consultation at the Wichita Vision Institute right away!
Serving the Maize, Park City, Bel Aire, Goddard, and Wichita, KS areas!