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What is Pterygium Removal?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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Pterygium removal is a surgical procedure to remove a fleshy, conjunctiva growth that develops and interferes with the cornea. The conjunctiva is the membrane that covers the white part of the eye while the cornea is the clear covering over the colored part of the eye. A growth that reaches the cornea can obstruct eyesight, so pterygium removal generally follows a growth that threatens vision. Removal might also be necessary, though, in an individual who experiences discomfort that cannot be relieved with medication. In addition, an affected individual might also receive the procedure for cosmetic purposes.

During pterygium removal, the doctor dissects away the growth while the patient is under anesthesia. This surgery is usually an outpatient procedure and the patient gets to go home the same day. Afterward, it can take weeks for the eye to completely heal, during which time the doctor might prescribe eye drops or ointments. Though pterygium removal is the only way to get rid of the growth from the eye, the procedure is not a guaranteed, permanent form of treatment, as some patients do experience a re-growth. If a re-growth occurs, it tends to grow larger in size, and at a faster rate, than before.

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When a mild case of pterygium occurs, the growth might cause redness and irritation, but the symptoms are manageable through medication. Also, there is no medical need for surgery if the growth does not interfere with an individual’s ability to see. In some cases, pterygium does not require any treatment at all.

The exact cause of pterygium is unknown, but the condition does seem to be related to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In general, the growth occurs mostly in people who spend large amounts of time in the sun—this includes farmers, fishermen and surfers. Also, the condition more often affects people who live closer to the equator. Only in rare cases do children develop the condition. Other causes of pterygium include dirt, dust and wind.

Since UV radiation appears to be the major factor in the development of pterygium, it makes sense that prevention involves protecting the eyes as much as possible from the sun. While outdoors, an individual might take precautions by wearing sunglasses that provide UV protection. Wearing a wide-brim hat or spending less time in the sun might also help. Other than protecting the eyes, there are no measures that can really prevent a case of pterygium.

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