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A pterygium is a growth on the surface of the eye. It is generally wing-shaped and most commonly occurs on the nasal side of the eye. Pterygia are not cancerous but consist of fibrous tissue and are associated with prolonged UV exposure as well as dusty and windy environments. They are seen more in people who spend lots of time outdoors such as surfers, farmers, fisherman and builders.
Pterygium may cause no symptoms, but redness and irritation are common. A foreign body sensation, burning, itching and watering can be experienced. If large enough the pterygium can cause increased astigmatism and even reduced vision if close to the pupil centre.
Often when symptoms are mild, pterygium require only ocular lubricants to improve comfort. Anti-inflammatory steroid eye drops can also be used to reduce the swelling or irritation if required. If symptoms are problematic and sometimes also for cosmetic reasons, surgery to remove the pterygium is considered.
Pterygium surgery is performed as a day surgery and involves the pterygium excision as well as an auto-conjunctival graft. This technique is associated with a very low rate of recurrence and also improves the cosmetic result. Sutures are required to hold the tissue graft in place and can create some post-operative discomfort initially. Post-operative anti-inflammatory steroid drops are often prescribed for a period of three months to help avoid recurrence of the pterygium, and patients are monitored monthly while on these drops.