What is a Pterygium?
A pterygium is a non-cancerous overgrowth of tissue arising from the white of the eye onto the cornea. Most commonly presenting in young adults and frequently bilateral, the majority (99%) grow from the nasal side of the eye. Exposure to UV light, especially in childhood, is the strongest known risk factor, with approximately 10% of Queenslanders developing a pterygium in their lifetime1.
For some patients, a pterygium will be nothing more than a cosmetic blemish, however, many suffer from recurrent bouts of irritation, redness and inflammation. They can interfere with vision by inducing corneal astigmatism, growing across the visual axis, or causing double vision due to restriction of eye movements1.
Indications for surgical excision include size ≥ 3mm, rapid growth, reduced vision and troublesome ocular irritation symptoms1. Not surprisingly, many patients also dislike the appearance.
Recurrence rates of 15-40% following simple excision are reported1. Recurrent pterygium typically exhibit aggressive growth and are technically far more difficult to remove due to scarring and distorted tissue planes. The cosmetic result following further surgery is often poor.
Pterygium is not a trivial eye disease and a patient’s first operation is their best chance for a permanent solution.