CURE_What is a pterygium

Article Pterygium

Dr Norman Nieder-Heitmann
Paarl Oog Sentrum, Bo Lady Grey Straat, Paarl, 021 871 1368

What is a pterygium?

A pterygium is when a part of the conjunctiva grows over the cornea (cornea). The conjunctiva is a thin, translucent membrane that aligns the sclera (white part of the eye) and the inside of the eyelids.

What is the cause?

Pterygiums are common in a hot and dry climate with a lot of sun exposure. UV rays are the main cause of a pterygium.

Is it the same as a cataract?

A pterygium is often confused with a cataract. A cataract is when the eye’s natural bright lens located inside the eye becomes dull. In other words, these are two completely different conditions.

What is the treatment?

Not all pterygiums need to be removed.

Small pterygiums that do not cause any symptoms can only be monitored. Should they become red and itchy, drops may be prescribed to relieve the latter.

Surgical removal is considered in the following cases:

  • If they cause frequent or long-term redness and scratching.
  • If they affect vision (due to their effect on the shape of the cornea (astigmatism) or if it grows over the visual axis (over the pupil).
  • Cosmetic reasons.

What does surgical removal involve?

The procedure is usually performed under general anaesthesia by a qualified Ophthalmologist.

The pterygium is removed with fine instruments under a microscope. A piece of healthy conjunctiva is harvested on another area and glued with a tissue glue over the area where the pterygium was.

With this technique, the chance that pterygium can grow back is reduced to less than 5%.

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