Pterygium Surgery in the Washington D.C. area
What is pterygium?
Pterygium is a benign thickening of the outer coating (conjunctiva) of the eye that grows onto the cornea. As a pterygium grows, it may become red and irritated. Common symptoms associated with pterygium include redness, irritation, foreign body sensation, excessive tearing, and many others. If not surgically removed, this growth may lead to visual disturbances and decreased vision, as it can induce corneal astigmatism.
No-stitch pterygium eye surgery is made possible by the use of modern tissue adhesive, which mimic the body’s normal clotting pathway. The tissue adhesive allows the surgeon to secure a conjunctival autograft in a matter of seconds and allows the operated eye to heal more quickly and comfortably compared to surgical methods used in the past, such as stitches, to remove pterygia.
Although the exact etiology of pterygia remains unclear, overexposure to UV radiation (sunlight) is the greatest risk factor for the development of pterygium. This is why pterygia are most common among patients that have lived in countries near the equator. When the eye is continuously exposed to harmful UV rays, the conjunctiva thickens in a process similar to callus formation on the skin. Continuous exposure to dry, dusty, and/or sandy environments can also lead to pterygium formation.
UV protection is the most important component of pterygium prevention. Ophthalmologists recommend wearing UV 400-rated sunglasses when one is exposed to sunlight. 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 additional protection.
In some cases, the symptoms caused by pterygium can be relieved with lubricant eye drops (artificial tears) and steroid drops. As the pterygium grows, the symptoms may become resistant to topical drops. When vision or ocular comfort becomes affected by progressive growth of a pterygium, surgery is strongly recommended.
Conjunctival autograft with stitches
Most cornea specialists today perform pterygium surgery with a conjunctival autograft because of the reduced risk of recurrence. In this technique, the pterygium is removed, and the cornea regains clarity. However, the gap in the mucous membrane (conjunctiva) tissue, where the pterygium was removed, is filled with a transplant of tissue that has been painlessly removed from the conjunctiva located underneath the upper eyelid. Although the procedure requires more surgical skill than traditional surgery, this “autograft” (self-transplant) reduces the risk of pterygium recurrence since the area where abnormal tissue would regrow is filled. During this procedure, stitches are used to place the graft where the pterygium was removed, which can cause significant discomfort and elongate the healing period.
Pterygium Surgery at Visionary Eye Doctors
At Visionary Eye Doctors, our doctors perform the state-of-the-art no-stitch pterygium/amino graft surgery. No-stitch autograft pterygium surgery is the most advanced and successful surgical technique used to remove pterygium. Many research studies have proven that patients undergoing no-stitch surgery had significantly less pain and faster healing time after pterygium surgery than those having traditional surgery with stitches.
The operative eye is completely anesthetized before the procedure in order to avoid discomfort and pain during surgery. The abnormal corneal tissue is removed and replaced with a thin graft of normal tissue removed from the healthy conjunctiva underneath the upper eyelid. This autograft (self-transplant) significantly reduces the risk of pterygium recurrence because the location of abnormal growth is filled with healthy tissue. An amniotic membrane will be placed in the eye to aid the healing process and decreases inflammation. In this technique, a tissue adhesive is used to secure the autograft in place of stitches. Our surgeons do not use cauterization, the burning of blood vessels, to stop bleeding because it causes unwanted inflammation. Instead, a conservative approach of holding the vessels is used.
Using this surgical technique, combined with special medication, the rate of recurrence is significantly reduced. The procedure takes about 15 minutes to complete, and most patients are able to return to their normal activities within one or two days of surgery.
Dr. Martinez is considered one of the top surgeons for pterygium surgery in the DC metropolitan area and in the nation. Additionally, he has been recognized as an international leader in pterygium surgery. Proof of this fact is that very often, other ophthalmologists send him their patients for this specialized procedure.
Dr. Martinez has performed more than 10,000 pterygiectomies with an amazingly low recurrence rate of 0.8% using the modern and advanced surgical techniques, whereas other surgeons may have up to a 15% recurrence rate with similar, but not identical, techniques. His impressive low recurrence rates have been studied and recognized internationally, positioning Dr. Martinez as a pterygium “Top Surgeon,” receiving referrals and patients from all over the country.
During her tenure at the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Dr. Cremers performed thousands of surgeries, as well as taught surgery to numerous Harvard surgical residents and fellows. Dr. Cremers is also experienced in the latest no-stitch pterygium removal technique, which has been proven to have a quicker recovery period and smaller recurrence rate than past pterygium surgery techniques.