Understanding Pterygium and Its Effect on Your Eye Health
Pterygium is an eye condition in which pink, fleshy tissue grows partially over the white part of your eye. While these growths are benign, they can cause irritation to the eyes and become aesthetically unpleasing to many patients. At Retina & Eye Specialists of New Jersey, we provide several treatments to relieve the symptoms of pterygium as well as surgical treatments to remove it. Drs. Sean Lalin and Lee Angioletti will examine your pterygium and help determine the best treatment for you. To learn more about pterygium, contact our Morristown, NJ, office today.
Causes of Pterygium
In many cases, the cause of pterygium cannot be tied to a specific source, although many patients who develop this type of growth spend a great deal of time outside. It occurs most commonly in patients who experience a prolonged amount of sun exposure, especially to ultraviolet light. In fact, patients who live closer in proximity to the equator have a higher risk of developing pterygium because of extended sunlight exposure. Additional factors that seem to contribute to pterygium include prolonged exposure to excessive wind, which carries dust and other pollutants.
The most obvious symptom of pterygium is the presence of a pink or reddish tissue growing on the conjunctiva of the eye along its inside corner near the tear duct. Patients might also notice irritation, itchiness, or a feeling that something is in their eyes. In many cases, pterygium does not affect your vision, although it can grow over the colored iris of the eye and eventually obstruct the pupil, which results in a loss of vision. Only skilled ophthalmology professionals like Dr. Lalin and Dr. Angioletti can properly diagnose pterygium and ensure that it is not a potentially malignant growth.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Pterygium
Since a pterygium does not typically cause pain or obstruct vision, many patients do not require or seek surgical treatment for the condition. You can help relieve the irritating symptoms of pterygium by protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light whenever possible and limiting your exposure to high winds, dust, and other irritants.
Some patients also benefit from the use of vascoconstrictor, lubricating, or steroid eye drops. Some eye drops not only relieve irritation, but also reduce the inflammation in the blood vessels within the pterygium tissue. This in turn, may slow the pterygium's growth.
Surgical Treatment for Pterygium
When symptoms become unmanageable or a pterygium is obstructing your vision, surgical treatment may be recommended. During the procedure, your doctor will apply local anesthesia to the eye before creating an incision in the conjunctiva. The pterygium has a base, which grows within the conjunctiva, and a tail, which is the portion that spreads towards the corner of the eye. After both portions are removed, you may require a tissue graft to replace the portion of the conjunctiva that was surgically excised. This graft may come from an amniotic membrane transplant or from a healthy portion of your conjunctiva.
After surgery, you may be required to wear an eye patch and use specialized eye drops or medication while your eye heals. Our ophthalmologists will see you for follow-up visits to ensure your eyes are healing properly. Pterygium does have the potential to recur. If your pterygium returns, you and your doctor will need to evaluate whether you would like to repeat surgical treatment or explore nonsurgical alternatives.
To learn more about pterygium and available treatments, contact Retina & Eye Specialists of New Jersey today.