What is a pterygium?
A pterygium (pronounced ter-ig-ee-um) is a wedge shaped growth of tissue that extends from the corner of the eye towards the pupil. It is linked to sun exposure and is therefore very common, particularly in surfers and people who have spent a lot of time outdoors.
Should I have pterygium surgery?
If the pterygium is small and not causing any symptoms it is not necessary to treat it. If the pterygium causes mild and infrequent irritation, this can be treated with lubricating and anti-inflammatory drops. The drops will reduce the irritation but will not remove the existing pterygium or stop it from growing bigger.
Some people put off having pterygium surgery because they heard stories of painful recovery. While the recovery with some older surgical techniques was often very unpleasant, modern surgical techniques used at myeyespecialist make the surgery safe and comfortable. We offer all our patients surgical tissue glue instead of scratchy sutures and our post-operative care regime ensures that the recovery time
is fast with minimal or no discomfort and extremely small chance of pterygium recurrence.
Prior to surgery
Arranging time off work
Most people will take one week off work and a medical certificate can be provided for you. It is important to keep your eye clean and to use the eye drops regularly after your surgery. Talk to your surgeon if you feel your job precludes this and you need more time off work.
Blood thinning medication
If you take prescription blood thinners, talk to your GP or cardiologist if it’s safe for you to stop them a few days prior to surgery. You can still have your surgery even if you need to stay on the prescribed blood thinning medication.
If you take non-prescribed (over the counter) blood thinners or health supplements containing fish oil, turmeric or garlic, stop these two weeks prior to surgery. It is okay to consume those as part of your normal diet.
You will be advised by Gold Coast Eye Hospital prior to your surgery about whether to take your medication
On the day of surgery
Your surgery will be performed at the Gold Coast Eye Hospital, myeyespecialist's fully accredited and Queensland Health licensed day hospital situated within Robina Town Centre.
You will be given your admission time the day before the surgery. You will be our guest for approximately 3-4 hours. Please make sure you arrange for someone to drive you home as you will not be allowed to drive home yourself. You should also have someone to stay with you for the first night after the procedure.
The anaesthetist will put you to sleep to numb the eye, so you will not feel or see this. During the surgery, your eye will be completely numb and you will be under sedation, feeling very relaxed, comfortable and sleepy.
Pterygium surgery involves removing the visible part of the pterygium, as well as the roots of the pterygium under the surface. Once the pterygium is removed a small conjunctival (skin of the eyeball) graft is harvested from under the upper lid and glued into place where the pterygium was. This reduces the risk of the pterygium regrowing from 1 in 2 to less than 1 in 200. Using the tissue glue instead of stitches leads to a more comfortable and quicker recovery.
At the end of surgery, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops will be instilled and a clear bandage contact lens will be placed on the eye, to keep the eye comfortable. This contact lens does not have any power so you can still wear your usual glasses. You should leave this contact lens in and not attempt to take it out at all until your first follow up appointment. At that time, we will remove the contact lens.
You will need to remove the eye pad (if used) and the shield 2 hours after the surgery. You may experience some double vision which is normal as the anaesthetic is wearing off from the eye muscles. Discard the eye pad and use the shield at night for 2 weeks. The shield will protect the eye from accidental rubbing during sleep.
Start using your drops and tablets according to the instructions at the back of your surgical booklet. The drops may sting initially and this is quite normal. You may have slightly blood-stained tears and the eye will look very red. This is a perfectly normal part of having just had surgery. The redness and blood under the surface of your eye will gradually go away over several weeks, much like a bruise would on the skin.
You may clean your lids and eyelashes with a clean tissue or soft eye pad and cooled boiled water. Be very gentle with the eye and do not rub it as this may dislodge the tissue graft.
A tutorial for cleaning your lids and administering eye drops is available on our YouTube channel here.