Pterygium & Pingueculum


Hi, this is Dr. Matheson Harris with Utah Oculoplastic Consultants in Salt Lake City, Utah. A pterygium occurs when the skin of the eye, or conjunctiva, gets inflamed and grows onto the clear part of the eye, the cornea, which sits just in front of the colored part of the eye, the iris. A pterygium can cause blurred vision, eye irritation and eye redness. A pingueculum is a white or yellowish growth on the white of your eye adjacent to the cornea. It doesn’t overlap onto the cornea like a pterygium. A pingueculum can get red and irritated and in certain people can appear bumpy and yellow. Both pterygia and pinguecula are thought to be caused by damage to the skin of the eye, usually from sun exposure. They are common in people who spend a lot of time outdoors and in dusty environments. They also seem to be more prevalent in certain ethnic groups, such as Hispanics. Pterygium surgery is performed when the pterygium has grown large enough to affect vision, or is causing significant eye irritation. A pterygium can cause astigmatism, which is a distortion of the shape of the cornea. A large pterygium can actually block the pupil. There are many techniques, but the pterygium surgery technique I prefer is called the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. technique. It involves removing part of the pterygium on the cornea and the underlying tissues on the white of the eye which are inflamed. This creates a large opening in the skin of the eye, which is covered with a graft taken from the top of the eye under the upper eyelid. The graft is held in place with a biologic glue, which is much more comfortable than using stitches. When done in this fashion, recurrence is less than 1%. Other techniques can result in up to 50-60% recurrence. At the end of pterygium surgery, a dissolvable contact lens is placed on the eye and the eye is patched. The patch is removed the next day and the patient starts using antibiotic eye drops with steroid to decrease inflammation. The eye will be sore for 3-5 days and you’ll be given a prescription for pain medicine. We check you after a week to ensure you are healing well, then after 6-8 weeks to evaluate your vision and see how you are improving. Complications after pterygium surgery are uncommon, but can include loss of the graft, prolonged pain or eye redness, and recurrence of the growth. Most people, however, do very well and find their eyes are much more comfortable following surgery. If you have any questions, email me directly or call our office for a consultation. Thanks for choosing Utah Oculoplastic Consultants. We look forward to helping you feel and look your best.

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