Eye Doctor in Mesa, Arizona
East Valley Ophthalmology Eye Care Clinic - Institute
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Eye Exams in Mesa, Arizona

Pterygium Removal - Mesa, Arizona

We invite you to make an appointment and learn more: 480-981-6111.

Pterygium (pronounced "tur-RIDGE-ium") is a pinkish-yellow, triangular-shaped benign tissue growth starting from the nasal area of your eye and grows toward the cornea. As a pterygium grows, it can be varied in its appearance from small and pink to large and angry red with symptoms of dry eye. Eventually, it may cause visual disturbances by disrupting the normally smooth surface of the cornea. In severe cases, a pterygium can block a patient's vision altogether.

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Dr. Jonathan Kao performs state-of-the-art pterygium removal surgery. He performs a complete excision of the lesion and will typically cover the area with what is called a conjunctival autograft.

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Causes of Pterygium
Pterygia are more common in sunny climates and in the 20-40 age group. Scientists do not know what causes pterygia to develop. However, since people who have pterygia usually have spent a significant time outdoors, many doctors believe ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun may be a factor. In areas where sunlight is strong, wearing protective eyeglasses, sunglasses, and/or hats with brims are suggested. While some studies report a higher prevalence of pterygia in men than in women, this may reflect different rates of exposure to UV light.

Preventing Pterygium
The best method of preventing pterygium is to regularly wear UV 400 rated sunglasses when outdoors in sunny conditions. Sunglasses with a wrap-around design provide better protection than those with large gaps between the sunglass frame and the skin around the eyes. Wearing a hat with a wide brim provides valuable additional protection.

Treating Pterygium
In mild cases, pterygium redness and discomfort can be controlled with lubricant eye drops (artificial tears). When symptoms of redness, irritation, or blurred vision are resistant to artificial tears, low dose steroid eyedrops can be tried. When symptoms are resistant to conservative treatments or when vision is affected by progressive growth, surgery is a reasonable option.

Pterygium Surgery

History of Pterygium Surgery
In pterygium surgery, the abnormal tissue is removed from the cornea and sclera (white of the eye). Over the years, pterygium surgery has evolved significantly, and modern pterygium surgery has a significantly higher success rate than conventional surgery.

In traditional "bare sclera" pterygium removal, the underlying white of the eye (sclera) is left exposed. Healing occurs over two to four weeks with mild to moderate discomfort. Unfortunately, the pterygium may grow back in up to 50% of patients. In many cases, the pterygium grows back larger than its original size.

Over the years, surgeons have used several different techniques to lessen the likelihood of pterygium recurrence, including radiation treatment and the use of "antimetabolite" chemicals that prevent growth of tissue. Each of these techniques has risks that potentially threaten the health of the eye after surgery, including persistent epithelial defects (ulceration in the surface of the eye), and corneal melting.

Conjunctival Graft with Stitches
Most cornea specialists today perform pterygium surgery and cover the exposed area with a graft to reduce the risk of recurrence. There are two main sources of this graft. One is your own body; in this technique a thin layer of the white membrane, or conjunctiva, covering the eye is removed from beneath the eyelid. This is then moved over to fill the area where the pterygium once occupied. Although the procedure requires more surgical skill and time than traditional surgery, this "auto-graft" (self-transplant) helps prevent re-growth of the pterygium by filling the space where abnormal tissue would have re-grown. The autograft is held in place with a combination of tiny stitches and/or glue.

Amniotic Membrane Graft
The other source of covering is amniotic membrane, which is a unique membrane derived from the submucosa of the placenta, the structure that provides nutrition to a developing fetus. The tissue is donated by consenting mothers and screened for infectious diseases according to FDA standards. Because of its' origin, amniotic membrane is filled with natural molecules that are anti-inflammatory, anti-scarring, and promote wound healing.

The precise surgical technique depends on a variety of factors including how large the pterygium is and whether there have been previous surgeries. Dr. Kao's preferred technique is to perform as large an excision of the existing pterygium as is safe, combined with a conjunctival autograft. The autograft is secured with a combination of sutures and glue. The use of glue increases comfort after surgery and allows for fewer sutures.

The eye specialists of East Valley Ophthalmology perform advanced technology diagnostic testing and treatment, as well as taking the time necessary to provide each patient with information needed to fully understand their condition and to achieve their best possible visual outcome.

If you would like further information, please call our office at:


East Valley Ophthalmology

Eye Doctors - Mesa, Arizona

If you or a family member or friend have not had a recent routine eye examination, have a specific eye condition that needs addressing, or are looking for an eye specialist or professional eye consultant please take a moment to Request an Appointment.


East Valley Ophthalmology
5620 East Broadway Road
Mesa, Arizona 85206

Tel: +1-480-981-6111
FAX: +1-480-985-2426

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