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A pterygium is a benign growth of thickened, scar-like tissue on the surface of the eye.

It originates on the white part of the eye, the conjunctiva, and grows onto the cornea, the clear front part of the eye. It is usually seen on the nose side of the eye but can grow from any portion of the conjunctiva. Pterygia can continue to grow or remain stationary over time.


  • Mild cases show redness
  • Foreign-body sensation and eye fatigue.
  • Symptoms are typically exacerbated by dry eye as well as dry, windy, and dusty environments.
  • More advanced cases can affect the vision by causing distortion to the cornea or by physically blocking vision.


Exposure to UV radiation from sunlight is the most common cause.

UV light causes damage to the soft tissues of the eye causing a thickening and fibrotic change to the tissue than can migrate onto the cornea.

Pterygia are more commonly seen in Hispanic and African American races, those with dry eyes, and those who spend a large amount of time outdoors.

Conservative Treatment

  • Aggressive treatment for dry eyes is the first line of defense.

  • If the pterygium is causing significant irritation, active growth, or affecting the vision, surgical intervention may be recommended.

Surgical Treatment

  • Previous surgical treatments were not very successful having a recurrence rate of 50%.

  • Recent advancements in technique and materials have made pterygia surgery safe and very effective.  

  • Typically, the eye is anesthetized, and the abnormal tissue is carefully removed.  An amniotic membrane graft is then placed on the wound and glued into place with special tissue glue.   Amniotic membrane is a surgical material derived from part of the human placenta.  It has great anti-inflammatory properties which help prevent scar formation and reducing the chance of pterygium recurrence.  Amniotic membrane tissue has been used in eye and other surgeries safely for over 50 years.

  • Complications from pterygium surgery, fortunately, are uncommon, usually less than 1%.  

    • Recurrence      

    • Scar formation     

    • Chronic redness in surgical area

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