How do I know if you need pterygium surgery?

Ultraviolet (UV) exposure, which is particularly intense during summer, can cause anything from acute sunburn to the eye, right through to early cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. Significant exposure from a young age can even lead to the development of a pterygium.

Don’t know what a pterygium is? You’re not alone! Despite being quite a common eye condition many people don’t even hear about the condition until they are diagnosed. One study estimates they occur in as many as 10% of Queenslanders.

As Australia and New Zealand’s first accredited ‘P.E.R.F.E.C.T for Pterygium’ surgeon, I’m passionate about educating my patients and the community about pterygia. This includes how to prevent, identify, and treat them. You can read more about symptoms and prevention in my tips on pterygia here.

With the ‘P.E.R.F.E.C.T’ method, patients have a high chance of successful and permanent removal of a pterygium. In addition, they will get an excellent final cosmetic result, compared to some other surgical methods.

But how do you know if you need surgery to remove your pterygium or not?

When is it time for pterygium surgery?

As long as you keep an eye (pardon the pun) on it, most small pterygia are safe to leave untreated. Monitor it regularly by checking in the mirror and consult an eye health professional every 1-2 years who ideally can take photos, to check on whether it is growing. In some cases, over-the-counter medications can provide temporary relief from redness and irritation, however, some of these eye drops aren’t recommended over the long term.

What are the Risks of Surgery?

For those who don’t get relief from eye drops, or have a large pterygium or one which is impacting their vision, surgery is an option.

It is worth noting that the first time the pterygium is operated on is the best chance for a permanent solution. An inadequate operation increases the risk of a recurrence of the pterygium, most likely within the first year after the first one was removed. So, if this occurs the problem is the recurrent pterygium can exhibit more aggressive growth and, because of scarring, subsequent surgeries are much more difficult.

P.E.R.F.E.C.T for Pterygium surgical technique

A relatively modern surgical method known as PTERYGIUM® for Pterygium

  • Pterygium
  • Extended
  • Removal
  • Followed by
  • Extended
  • Conjunctival
  • Transplant

KindSIGHT recommends this method of removal for a pterygium, due to it’s outstanding results for patients. Most importantly it has reduced the average recurrence rate from 15% down to 0.1%.

I am fortunate enough to have undertaken fellowship training with the pioneer of the P.E.R.F.E.C.T method Professor Lawrence Hirst, who is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts in the disease and I am also a partner at The Australian Pterygium Centre. I am proud of my special interest in this area of ophthalmology and feel confident in what can be offered to my patients needing surgery.

You can see some of my surgical outcomes below.