Graft a sight for sore eyes

2017-06-28 06:01

A pterygium (pronounced te-ri-gi-um) is a fleshy pink growth on the white of the eye, which grows from the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the white of the eye) onto the cornea (clear central part of the eye).

A pterygium is a benign lesion that can occur on both sides of the eye, but is most often seen on the nasal side of the eye.

The exact cause of a pterygium is unknown, but it is strongly associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation and hot, dry environments.

Pterygia are more common in people who spend a lot of time outdoors, but anyone can develop a pterygium.

Many people with a pterygium feel as if there is something in their eye.

Pterygium symptoms also include dry eyes, irritation, inflammation and redness. Wearing a contact lens can also be more difficult or uncomfortable.

If the pterygium extends onto the cornea, it can cause blurred vision as the curvature of the cornea is altered, or can also obscure vision as it grows over the visual axis.

The treatment depends largely on the size and extent of the pterygium, as well as its tendency for recurrent inflammation.

Evaluation by an ophthalmologist will help determine the optimal treatment in each case.

If a pterygium is small but becomes intermittently inflamed, your ophthalmologist may recommend a trial of anti-inflammatory or artificial tear drops.

In some cases, surgery may be the appropriate method to treat this condition.

When the drops do not give patients sufficient relief from chronic irritation and redness, surgery may be required.

Surgery may also be necessary when the pterygium is large enough to be a cosmetic blemish, or when a patient’s vision is either affected already, or may be affected by conti-nued growth of the pterygium.

The surgery is performed under local or general anaesthesia in theatre.

The procedure takes about 30 minutes.

Modern pterygium removal is done by means of a conjunctival autograft.

The pterygium is carefully dissected away from the underlying tissue.

In order to prevent regrowth of the pterygium, healthy tissue is taken from under the upper eyelid of the same eye and glued onto the bed of the excised pterygium.

This healthy tissue has not been exposed to sunlight and retards the growth of any remaining sun-damaged cells in the affected part of the eye.

Removing the pterygium and filling the resultant defect on the surface of the eye with a piece of membrane (conjunctiva) taken from another place on the surface of the eye is the technique associated with the lowest risk and the highest success rate.

The conjunctival tissue is glued in place with a modern tissue adhesive called Tisseel.

After about a week, the adhesive dissolves with no residue at all.

There are many advantages to using this technique.

Time spent in theatre is between ten to 15 minutes shorter per eye with reduced post-operative pain and discomfort.

The recovery period is also much shorter than the more traditional method.

There is always a risk of recurrence. Yet, with this technique, the probability for recurrence is less than 2%.

With the routine technique, it is between 10% to 15%.

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