Commonly Asked Questions
What is a Pterygium?
A pterygium is a non- cancerous growth of the skin over the eye. This abnormal growth develops as a response to years of sun exposure. A mild pterygium can give symptoms of redness, but severe pterygium growth can lead to blurry vision. It is also commonly known as surfer’s eye or carnocidad in Spanish. The word is derived from a Greek word “wing” because of the wing-like shape of the growth.
What Causes a Pterygium?
Pterygium growth is thought to be caused by the effects of the sun and a genetic predisposition to the disorder. Ultra-Violet rays from the sun damage the small cells leading to abnormal growth.
Who is at Risk of Developing a Pterygium?
Certain populations tend to have a high incidence of the condition. Darkly pigmented individuals seem to have a higher rate. Patients with a history of frequent sun exposure or from countries closer to the equator also tend to be at greater risk.
What are the Symptoms of Pterygium?
Pterygium can cause blurry vision, redness, irritation, or foreign body sensation.
What is the Treatment for a Pterygium?
Steroid drops and lubricants can be used to manage the symptoms of a mild Pterygium. For larger Pterygium that are growing across the cornea surgical removal is recommended. The surgery involves removing the scarred skin from the eye. Either healthy tissue from the patient or a graft can be used to cover the defect to promote healing.
Is Pterygium Surgery Painful?
The procedure itself is not painful. The patient is given relaxing medicine prior to the surgery and the surgical site is numbed. Patients will feel some scratchy discomfort for about three days after the procedure.
What is the Risk of the Procedure?
The major risk of the pterygium surgery is the risk of recurrence. Approximately 5% of pterygium will require a second surgery months or years later. The intraocular pressure can rise due to the effects of the post-operative medicine. This is not usually permanent and can be treated. Depending on the healing process there can be permanent scar tissue on the cornea or an irregular shape to the cornea (astigmatism) that could lead to reduced vision.
Does Insurance Cover the Procedure?
Pterygium is potentially sight-threatening and the surgical procedure is usually covered by your insurance. Removal is considered a medically necessary treatment when you are experiencing symptoms from the condition.
How Much Does the Procedure Cost?
With insurance, this depends on your co-pay and deductible amount. That price includes preoperative testing, surgical suite, surgeon fee, and three months of post-operative visit.
When Can I Return to Work After the Procedure?
It is helpful to the success of the procedure to have eye rest for at least three days after pterygium surgery; most patients can return to work after 5 days depending on how the eye is feeling.
How Long Does it Take to Heal?
After the surgery, the eye will be red for three weeks. This is a superficial hemorrhage of the eye and goes away without issues. The eye will remain pink for another 6-10 weeks as it heals. Medications are used to prevent infection and to reduce inflammation. The eye becomes white about three months after surgery. Scratchy irritation will last for a week or two after the procedure.
How do I know if I need pterygium surgery?
There are two common reasons to consider pterygium surgery. The first reason to consider pterygium surgery is when the pterygium growth is very large and starts to cover the cornea or change the shape of the cornea. If this happens the vision will start to become blurry. Removing the pterygium can improve the vision and prevent further deterioration. The second reason to consider surgery is when the pterygium is causing eye irritation that is annoying or redness that has a negative cosmetic impact on the appearance of the eye. If you are interested in removing your pterygium please contact the office for more information or to schedule an evaluation (Click here)