What is a pterygium?

A pterygium is a pink, fleshy growth of conjunctiva onto the coloured part of the eye. Pterygia occur in response to sunlight. They are not a cancer but they do have a small risk of becoming cancerous if neglected.

What are the symptoms of a pterygium?

1.Red and unsightly appearance. Patients with pterygia often complain that they look tired due to having red eyes.
2.Irritation, tearing and discomfort.
3.Blurred vision and changing glasses prescription, due to the pterygium pulling on the cornea and distorting the curvature of the eye.
4.Scarring of the cornea, which can irreversibly blur vision.

Pterygium surgery nick andrew sight specialists southport gold coast ophthalmologist eye surgeon cataract surgery

What are the key things to know about pterygium surgery with Dr Andrew?

One eye at a time

If you have a pterygium on both eyes then these will need to be treated on separate days. Some patients have both pterygia treated in the same week, to limit their time off of work.

Deep sedation

Dr Andrew’s pterygium patients describe the experience as pleasant and relaxing. Most have limited recollection of their surgery. Your eye is completely anaesthetised.

Discomfort for several days

Discomfort is unavoidable following pterygium surgery, regardless of the technique used. Most patients report strong pain for two days, followed by mild irritation for 1-2 weeks. Most patients take one week off of work.

Post-operative care

Dr Andrew will see you at approximately day 5 post-op, and again at one month and three months.

You will be given medicated eye drops to use after the operation.

How does Dr Andrew perform pterygium surgery?

Dr Andrew’s goals for pterygium surgery are an excellent cosmetic result, fast recovery, and prevention of recurrence.

There are different ways to perform pterygium surgery. The technique used by Dr Andrew is widely regarded as providing the very best results. The key benefits of this technique are negligible scarring and extremely low likelihood of the pterygium ever growing back (<1%).

Firstly, all of the abnormal tissue is carefully removed. The ptergyium that you see is only the “tip of the iceberg”. The surgery must span a much larger area in order to prevent future recurrence.

Next, a thin sheet of healthy conjunctiva is mobilised from behind your lower eyelid. This is called a “conjunctival autograft”. Tissue glue and tiny dissolvable sutures are used to secure this in place over the site where your pterygium was growing. The conjunctival auto graft accelerates healing and dramatically improves your cosmetic result.

What are the risks of pterygium surgery?

Pterygium surgery is one of the safest eye operations. This is because the surgery is entirely on the surface of the eye only. Below is a list of the most common complications of pterygium surgery.

  • Pain. Discomfort is an unavoidable consequence of pterygium surgery, regardless of the technique that is used. Most patients report strong pain for two days, followed by mild irritation for approximately two weeks. The anaesthetist will give you a prescription for pain killers to use, if you wish.
  • Superficial haemorrhage (a “bloodshot eye”). This is very common but it is of no consequence to your vision. It resolves over several weeks.
  • Change in the eye’s refraction (focus). A pterygium changes the refractive error of the eye as it grows. Removing the pterygium usually improves the vision; however, a large pterygium can leave a permanent change to the focus of the eye. If required, glasses can be updated six weeks after the surgery, or the focus error of the eye can be corrected with another operation.
  • Droopy upper eyelid (ptosis, <5%). When this occurs, it is usually very mild. If the eyelid is noticeably droopy then it can be lifted again with an operation.
  • Recurrent pterygium (<1%). Although recurrence is rare with Dr Andrew’s technique, regularly wearing sunglasses when outdoors will help to reduce your risk further.
  • Double vision (<1%). This can occur from bruising of the muscles that turn the eye. This is very uncommon and usually resolves spontaneously.
  • Infection (<1:5000).

Monday to Friday: 8am – 4.30pm

Dr Nick Andrew

Ophthalmologist and Eye Surgeon Gold Coast

Sight Specialists, Level 2, 95 Nerang St, Southport QLD 4215

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