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Pterygium (Surfer's Eye)

Treatment of Pterygium continued...

Surgery has a risk of complications, such as the recurrence of a more aggressive lesion. So surgery is usually considered only if:

  • Conservative treatments have failed
  • The patient's eyesight is at risk

The type of surgery most commonly used today uses the patient's own conjunctiva (surface eye tissue) or preserved amniotic membrane (placenta) to fill the empty space created by the removal of the pterygium. In this procedure, the pterygium is removed and the conjunctiva or amniotic membrane is glued or stitched onto the affected area.

Pterygium surgery typically takes 30 to 45 minutes. After surgery, patients usually need to wear an eye patch for a day or two. But they can return to work or normal activities (avoiding swimming and eye rubbing) after a few days.

Often, patients are told to use steroid eyedrops for several weeks. This will reduce inflammation and prevent pterygium recurrence.

The main complication of pterygium surgery is recurrence after removal. Without a conjunctival or amniotic graft, the recurrence rate is nearly 50%. Pterygium removal with a conjunctival or amniotic graft is associated with a much decreased recurrence risk of 5%-10%.

Surgical complications may also include corneal scarring and perforation. In some cases, surgical removal of pterygium can cause astigmatism.

Patients need to be carefully followed for a year because 97% of recurrences occur during the first 12 months after surgery.

Prevention of Pterygium

You may prevent pterygium by wearing sunglasses every day, even on cloudy days. Choose sunglasses that block 99%-100% of both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.

Wraparound sunglasses provide the best protection against ultraviolet light, dust, and wind.

Experts also recommend wearing a hat with a brim to protect the eyes from ultraviolet light.

To keep your eyes moist in dry conditions, apply artificial tears.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on May 01, 2012

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