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Pterygium, also known as “surfer’s eye,” is a fleshy membrane that grows on the surface of the eye and over the cornea. The condition may start developing as a pinguecula, a thick, yellow growth of fat, calcium or protein deposits that forms on the conjunctiva. Pterygium is characterised by irritation, redness and inflammation in the eye. Pterygia vary in size, and symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. If left untreated for too long, pterygia may result in scarring and permanent corneal warpage.

What are the symptoms of pterygium membranes?

Pterygium can form in both eyes and impair vision. Usually, the membrane grows at the edge of the eye.

Other symptoms include:

  • Red eyes
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Worsening astigmatism

What are the causes of pterygium membranes?

Primary reasons for the formation of pterygium membranes include overexposure to UV light and ageing. People between the ages of thirty and fifty are most susceptible to developing the condition, however, having fair skin and light eyes are also risk factors. Additionally, dust and wind can contribute to the development of pterygium. Dry eye disease is one of the leading causes as well.

How do you diagnose pterygia?

Through a special microscope, we can see the eye under high magnification to check for the growth of pterygium tissue. Using corneal topography (corneal thickness and steepness assessment), our specialists can assess the impact of the pterygium on the cornea.

How do you treat pterygia?

Conservative treatment for pterygium includes protection against harsh UV light and ocular lubrication, and anti-inflammatory medications. Treatment, however, depends on the severity of the condition.

While we may prescribe ointments or drops to treat mild pterygium and prevent its progression, surgery is the only way to completely remove pterygium. Pterygia need to be removed as soon as the cornea has been infiltrated more than a certain degree. Although removal is often performed for cosmetic reasons, pterygium can warp or scar the cornea and cause vision loss.

Can pterygium return?

Pterygium used to grow back in the past when surgeons removed the pterygium from the conjunctiva and sewed the gap closed. Modern techniques prevent the membrane from regrowing once removed, these include:

  • Removing pterygium with underlying tissue to achieve free, clean borders.
  • Minimising tissue disturbance near the space
  • Securing the graft with tissue adhesive (fibrin glue)
  • Using an amniotic membrane or conjunctival graft to minimise inflammation and stop the growth of new blood vessels
  • Applying medications to sterilise the gap
  • Sticking to a strict post-op programme to prevent infection

“Vision is the true creative rhythm”

- Robert Delaunay