If you spend a lot of time in the sun without proper eye protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, you could develop a pterygium — an uncomfortable eye growth that can lead to vision problems. At Des Peres Eye Center in St. Louis and Arnold, Missouri, the experienced ophthalmologists diagnose and treat patients who have pterygia. Eric Chiu, MD, is a skilled eye surgeon who performs pterygium surgery if your condition requires advanced treatment. If your eye feels irritated and itchy, schedule an eye exam by phone for expert diagnosis and treatment.
A pterygium is a wedge-shaped bump that often begins in the white part of your eyeball — the conjunctiva — and, left untreated, can spread to your cornea — the clear front surface of your eye directly in front of your iris and pupil. This condition is also known as “surfer’s eye,” but anyone can develop a pterygium, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun. Pterygia are common in men and women 30-50 years old, who live near water, as well, since the sun reflects off the water into your eyes.
Pterygia are noncancerous growths, but left untreated, they can lead to permanent eye disfigurement and blurry vision.
You may not notice any symptoms of developing pterygium at first, but as it grows, it can make your eye feel itchy or like there’s something in your eye. If a pterygium gets too big and spreads to your cornea, it may distort your vision or lead to astigmatism. It might also appear red and give you a burning sensation in your affected eye.
Not necessarily. The treatment of a pterygium often depends on its size, location, and how quickly it’s growing. If it’s small, you may be able to treat it with eye lubricants or a mild steroid eye drop that helps reduce swelling and redness. Your ophthalmologist may also recommend contact lenses to protect the pterygium from dryness or further ultraviolet (UV) exposure.
If you do need pterygium surgery, Dr. Chiu at Des Peres Eye Center is an expert at performing this procedure. One type of effective surgery to remove a pterygium involves a conjunctival autograft. During this procedure, Dr. Chiu removes tissue from the conjunctiva in your eye to fill in the area where he removes the pterygium.
The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the inner surfaces of your eyelids. A conjunctival autograft helps prevent the pterygium from growing back in the same place. The whole procedure typically takes 30-45 minutes and is performed as outpatient surgery under local anesthesia with sedation.
Additionally, Dr. Chiu may recommend using amniotic membrane as a graft. Amniotic membrane has been used in ophthalmology for over two decades. It helps provide anti-inflammatory and anti-scarring effects to minimize the buildup of scar tissue after surgery.
If you develop a pterygium, Dr. Chiu can recommend the best course of action for your individual condition. Call today to schedule a consultation.