A pterygium is a raised growth in the surface of the eye that can become red and irritated, and invade the cornea (the clear window over the front of the eye). It is usually caused by long-term exposure to sunlight, dry air, smog, smoke and other irritants. In some cases pterygia can affect vision. Initial treatment includes lubricating drops, sunglasses and protective eyewear, and sometimes prescription drops to reduce redness and swelling. If a pterygium remains symptomatic or threatens vision, surgical removal is recommended.
Pterygiums can recur after removal. To reduce this risk, experienced surgeons usually combine removal of the pterygium with a graft or transplant to cover the bare surface of the eye left behind. This graft can be taken from the patient’s own eye, or from donor tissue. Modern biologic adhesives (tissue ‘glue’) allow the graft to be secured without stitches. These advanced “no-stitch” pterygium techniques can speed healing, minimize discomfort and redness, and reduce the risk of recurrence.