Pterygium, also known as “surfer’s eye”, is very common in Australia. It is a benign (“wing like”) growth of fleshy tissue on the outer part of the eyeball (usually transparent).

What are the causes?

Pterygia are caused by UV light exposure in early life, which presents in adulthood. Even though the name is “surfer’s eye”, it does not only occur in surfers! Anyone with excessive UV exposure is at risk of developing a pterygium.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of pterygia vary between people. Most have irritation and redness intermittently at the site of the pterygium. When the pterygium grows onto the cornea, it will affect your vision.

Pterygium encroaching onto the cornea

Pterygium encroaching onto the cornea

What is the treatment?

In early stages, when the pterygium is not growing onto the cornea, it can be controlled with certain drops.

However, once you have enough symptoms to warrant seeing Dr Sachdev, it usually is at the stage that surgery is required.

Surgical excision with a free conjunctival graft is the most suited surgical technique for pterygia.

Dr Sachdev has a strong affiliation with the Ophthalmic Pathologists at St Vincent’s Hospital, thus, all pterygia are sent for pathological diagnosis. This is imperative as up to 30% of cases can be cancerous (Ocular Surface Squamous Cell Neoplasia).

The pathology is usually given within one week. If cancer is detected, further surgery or adjuvant therapy may be required.

This will be discussed at your post operative appointment.

Pterygium encroaching onto the cornea

Post op pterygium with conjunctival graft using glue

Will it grow back?

Pterygia can grow back, however, with the latest surgical techniques that Dr Sachdev employs with a graft, recurrence rates are low and are around 4%.

Recurrence is minimised with compliance to the strict post operative guidelines.

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. The information provided here is for general educational purposes only.

To find out if pterygium surgery is right for you, please book an appointment with Dr Nisha Sachdev.

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