Pterygium

Commonly Asked Questions

A pterygium is a non- cancerous growth of the skin over the eye. This abnormal growth develops as a response to years of sun exposure. A mild pterygium can give symptoms of redness, but severe pterygium growth can lead to blurry vision. It is also commonly known as surfer’s eye or carnocidad in Spanish. The word is derived from a Greek word “wing” because of the wing-like shape of the growth.

Pterygium growth is thought to be caused by the effects of the sun and a genetic predisposition to the disorder. Ultra-Violet rays from the sun damage the small cells leading to abnormal growth.

Certain populations tend to have a high incidence of the condition. Darkly pigmented individuals seem to have a higher rate. Patients with a history of frequent sun exposure or from countries closer to the equator also tend to be at greater risk.

Pterygium can cause blurry vision, redness, irritation, or foreign body sensation.

Steroid drops and lubricants can be used to manage the symptoms of a mild Pterygium. For larger Pterygium that are growing across the cornea surgical removal is recommended. The surgery involves removing the scarred skin from the eye. Either healthy tissue from the patient or a graft can be used to cover the defect to promote healing.

The procedure itself is not painful. The patient is given relaxing medicine prior to the surgery and the surgical site is numbed. Patients will feel some scratchy discomfort for about three days after the procedure.

The major risk of the pterygium surgery is the risk of recurrence. Approximately 5% of pterygium will require a second surgery months or years later. The intraocular pressure can rise due to the effects of the post-operative medicine. This is not usually permanent and can be treated. Depending on the healing process there can be permanent scar tissue on the cornea or an irregular shape to the cornea (astigmatism) that could lead to reduced vision.

Pterygium is potentially sight-threatening and the surgical procedure is usually covered by your insurance. Removal is considered a medically necessary treatment when you are experiencing symptoms from the condition.

With insurance, this depends on your co-pay and deductible amount. The cash pay price of the pterygium surgery is $1800. That price includes preoperative testing, surgical suite, surgeon fee, and three months of post-operative visit.

It is helpful to the success of the procedure to have eye rest for at least three days after pterygium surgery; most patients can return to work after 5 days depending on how the eye is feeling.

After the surgery, the eye will be red for three weeks. This is a superficial hemorrhage of the eye and goes away without issues. The eye will remain pink for another 6-10 weeks as it heals. Medications are used to prevent infection and to reduce inflammation. The eye becomes white about three months after surgery. Scratchy irritation will last for a week or two after the procedure.