Pterygium surgery is a procedure performed to remove noncancerous conjunctiva growths (pterygia) from the eye.

The conjunctiva is the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Some cases of a pterygium produce little to no symptoms. Severe overgrowth of conjunctiva tissue can cover the cornea and interfere with your vision.

The pterygium surgery is a minimally invasive surgery. It generally takes no more than 30 to 45 minutes. Your doctor will most likely provide you with general guidelines to prepare for your pterygium surgery.

You may be required to fast or only eat a light meal beforehand. In addition, if you wear contact lenses, you may be asked to not wear them for at least 24 hours before the procedure.

Because you’ll be lightly sedated, doctors will require you to arrange transportation after the surgery, as you’ll be unable to drive yourself.

The pterygium surgical procedure is fairly quick and low risk:

  1. Your doctor will sedate you and numb your eyes to prevent discomfort during surgery. They will then clean the surrounding areas.
  2. Your doctor will remove the pterygium along with some associated conjunctiva tissue.
  3. Once the pterygium is removed, your doctor will replace it with a graft of associated membrane tissue to prevent recurrent pterygium growths.

Sutures vs. glue

Once the pterygium is removed, doctors will either use sutures or fibrin glue to secure the conjunctiva tissue graft in its place. Both techniques reduce the possibility of recurring pterygia.

While using dissolvable sutures may be considered a benchmark practice, it can cause more discomfort postsurgery, and extend the recovery time for several weeks.

Using fibrin glue, on the other hand, has shown to reduce inflammation and discomfort while cutting the recovery time in half (compared to using sutures). However, since fibrin glue is a blood-derived product, it may carry the risk of transmitting viral infections and diseases. Using fibrin glue can also be more expensive than opting for sutures.

The bare sclera technique

Another option, though it carries with it an increased risk of pterygium recurrence, is the bare sclera technique. In this more traditional procedure, your doctor removes the pterygium tissue without replacing it with a tissue graft. This leaves the underlying white of the eye exposed to heal on its own.

While the bare sclera technique eliminates risks from sutures or fibrin glue, there’s a high rate of pterygium regrowth, and at a larger size.

At the end of surgery, your doctor will apply an eye patch or pad for comfort and to prevent infection. It’s important to not rub your eyes after the procedure to avoid dislodging the attached tissue.

Your doctor will provide you with aftercare instructions, including cleaning procedures, antibiotics, and scheduling follow-up visits.

Recovery time can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months for your eye to completely heal, without signs of redness or discomfort. Though, this may also be dependent on the type of technique used during surgery.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks. Following the pterygium surgery, it’s normal to experience some discomfort and redness. It’s also common to notice some blurriness during recovery.

However, if you begin to experience vision difficulties, a complete loss of vision, or notice pterygium regrowth, schedule a visit to your doctor.

Though pterygium surgery is often effective, in mild cases, your doctor might recommend prescriptions and ointments. However, if these benign growths begin to affect your vision or quality of life, the next step would most likely be surgery.