Ask an Eye M.D. Answer Archive
I have a pterygium in my right eye. Can it be removed by using lasers instead of conventional surgery?
A pterygium is a benign growth which usually appears on the side of the eye closest to the nose and covers the white of the eye in the horizontal meridian and grows over the cornea. It is caused by exposure to ultraviolet light and irritation from dirt, sand and wind. Avoidance of these irritants and the use of lubricating eye drops can inhibit growth of pterygia. When they interfere with vision, are unsightly, grow rapidly, cause undue pain, foreign body sensation and tearing, or double vision, surgery is indicated.
At the present time, the simple answer is "no," but there is the potential for the use of excimer lasers to be adapted for the task. The lasers themselves are still quite costly, and actually removing the pterygium is not the problem: recurrence is. That is, they often grow back, and sometimes are worse than prior to surgery. The current—and seemingly best—treatment when surgery is needed, is to have your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) remove it while looking through a microscope. Then a piece of preserved amniotic membrane is glued over the vacated site of the pterygium. Recovery is quick, and the lack of sutures reduces the irritation and pain postoperatively. The amniotic membrane itself is anti-inflammatory. Although only time will tell us what the long term recurrence rate actually is, this procedure gives the best patient satisfaction and early cosmetic results. See your Eye M.D. for a consultation.
Answered by: Richard G. Shugarman, MD
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