Pterygium Removal

Treatment for a Pterygium

A pterygium (tuh-RIJ-ee-um) is a type of growth on the eye. It is not cancer. It is most often only a minor problem unless it causes changes in your eyesight. Pterygia (the plural form of the word) are common in sunny climates and in people who do outdoor work.

Types of treatment

If your pterygium is not causing any symptoms, it may not need treatment. If symptoms develop, your doctor might treat you with:

  • Over-the-counter eye drops, eye gel, or eye ointment to help with redness or irritation
  • Prescription eye drops, eye gel, or eye ointment
  • Surgery

Only surgery can remove a pterygium. But other treatments may help ease symptoms. Your doctor may be more likely to advise surgery if:

  • The pterygium is causing eyesight problems
  • The pterygium is getting larger
  • You can’t move your eye normally
  • You have severe eye irritation that won’t go away with other treatment
  • Your eye’s appearance bothers you a lot

A pterygium will often grow back after it’s removed with surgery. This may be more likely if you are under age 40. In some cases the pterygium that grows back can cause worse symptoms than the first one. It may be even more difficult to remove the new pterygium. This is why a pterygium is not often removed with surgery unless it causes severe symptoms.

A pterygium may be less likely to return if you have other treatments in addition to surgery. These treatments slow the growth of your cells in the area and may help prevent future growth there. The treatments include mitomycin C (MMC) and beta irradiation. These treatments have their own risks. Your doctor will talk with you about the risks and benefits of all treatments.

Preventing a pterygium

Not all pterygia can be prevented. But you can decrease your risk by reducing sun exposure to your eyes. Wear sunglasses and hats when you are outside. Make sure your sunglasses block both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Decreased eyesight
  • Symptoms that get worse
  • New symptoms

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