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Eye diseases

Pterygium

pterigion
It is a benign lesion, although it can grow and interfere with vision.
It is particularly common between the ages of 20 and 50, in rural and warm areas.
Protecting yourself from the sun is the main preventative measure against pterygium.

What is pterygium?

Pterygium is an overgrowth of the conjunctiva (membrane that covers the sclera, the white part of the eyeball) in such a way that it “invades” the cornea (transparent layer that acts as the front lens of the eye). It tends to be triangular in shape and usually occurs in the nasal area or inside the eye, although it can also affect the temporal area or both.

Although it is a benign lesion, its gradual growth can cause it to get large enough to interfere with vision.

Especially in the early stages, pterygium may go unnoticed, and you may not notice anything. However, as it develops, becomes inflamed or the adjacent cornea dries out due to poor tear film distribution.

A burning sensation is also frequent, as well as the loss of visual acuity, when the invasion of tissue alters the curvature of the cornea, hence causing astigmatism, or even partially or totally covers the visual axis.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation and environmental factors (dry, dusty environments …) are the main risk factors for pterygium. Therefore, the main preventative measure we recommend is to protect your eyes with sunglasses outdoors.

This disease is more common in rural than urban areas and, generally, more common in hot climates, while prevailing in countries that are located on or near the equator.

The possibility of developing pterygium also increases with age (although it is more common in population groups between the age of 20 and 50) and if you suffer from chronic dry eye or recurrent conjunctival inflammations.

If pterygium causes you discomfort, using lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) can help relieve it. However, when the lesion continues to grow and affects visual quality, it may be necessary to perform surgery, as there is no drug treatment that will make pterygium disappear.

Surgery is performed on an outpatient basis under local anaesthesia and consists of removing the thickened tissue that invades the cornea. Subsequently, we suture the conjunctiva or place a conjunctiva graft from the patient themselves, extracted from the area that covers the upper eyelid. This graft is usually attached with tissue adhesives (biological glues), so that it does not require stitches.

The main advantage of the conjunctival autograft over direct suture is that, with the autograft, we decrease the risk of pterygium growing back.

In the most severe cases, we can also perform a limbal autograft (transition area between the cornea and the conjunctiva) for greater safety.