Southwest, FL | Case of the Day- Pterygium | Cataract & Refractive Institute of Florida

Dr. Croley describes a patient with a pterygium. A pterygium is a benign growth on the eye. It is caused by sun, wind ,dirt, dust, and dry eye syndrome. If it grows into the pupil area , it needs to be removed.


Dr. Croley: Hello and welcome to Case of the Day. I'm Doctor Crowley, and today we're going to discuss an interesting and very common case for us here in Florida where we saw a gentleman, came in today with a growth on his eye and he had a pterygium. And so pterygium's are very common in Florida.

Dr. Croley: And so what is a pterygium? A pterygium is a growth from the white part of your eye over towards the clear part of your eye. So what we're looking at is this white part's called the sclera. And over top of the sclera is a coating that contains many blood vessels that you see on the surface of your eye called the conjunctiva. And so due to sun exposure, wind, grit, dirt, sand, maybe dry eyes as well, contributes to that, that causes this tissue to proliferate and grow over towards your pupil on your clear part of your other cornea.

Dr. Croley: And a lot of people complain that their eye is sore, irritated, they get inflamed, their eye gets red, and if this grows far enough towards your pupil, then they can grow into the pupil and scar that area of your cornea and then lead to loss of vision. So you don't want to let it to get to that point. So many times we have to remove these growths because they get towards the pupil and we have to stop it so it does not interfere with the vision. Also, a lot of people complain that they're very painful and we remove them for that reason. And occasionally also for cosmetic reasons. A young lady who has a growth like that is very conscious about it and we remove the growth for that reason.

Dr. Croley: So like I said, basically they're due to sun exposure, so someone who starts to get something like this or sort of a cousin to this called the pinguecula. A pinguecula is where the growth is just still on the white part of the eye. You should start wearing wraparound type sunglasses,, always lubricate your eye with artificial tears to keep it calm down and lubricated and that will be your best bet from having this to continue to progress.

Dr. Croley: There's different variety of procedures to take care of these and so basically what we're doing is removing that growth. And then there is other things to do to try to keep this from coming back, because that sun damaged area of tissue is still there and it will grow right back if we don't do something to that. Years ago there was beta radiation that was applied to the eye to try to kill those cells so they would not hyper proliferate and come back. Don't really use that very often anymore. If you just remove that growth and do nothing else, then very likely it will grow back. So some techniques involve taking that growth off and taking another piece of the conjunctiva either up or below was not exposed to the sun and that part of the conjunctiva is normal, and then removing the conjunctiva from that area, and then transplanting it or grafting it up to the area where the pterygium was. And that is a very successful technique.

Dr. Croley: Another technique is we remove the growth and apply actually a cancer drug called Mytomycin C, and that keeps the proliferation and growth from coming back. And then there is other things such as, we can do different kinds of graphs. So there's amnio graphs, so there's different things that can work as well.

Dr. Croley: So they're fairly common, they're more common in people who work outdoors, more common in people who live in the South or sunny regions, and tennis players, professional golfers, commercial fishermen, farmers, all these kinds of people get these things. And so, if you spend or your job is outdoors and you spend a lot of time outdoors, protect your eyes because you don't want to have this proliferate and start growing because they are painful and the postoperative period afterwards is fairly painful and long drawn out sometimes. So the best thing is prevention. So if you have any questions about a pterygium, you can contact us through the website. If not, may God bless you with healthy eyes and great vision.