Pterygium – Surfer’s Eye
Battling a Condition
Intensified by the Elements
Commonly known as “surfer’s eye,” a pterygium is an elevated, often pinkish growth that usually originates in the sclera (white of the eye) on the side nearest the nasal passage. This usually slow-growing bump can, over time, spread to the cornea. It is a benign, non-cancerous growth but, if left untreated, it can cause discomfort, blurred vision and even permanent disfiguration of the eye.
If you are suffering from this condition, you may at first notice a small lesion, accompanied by dry, itchy irritation or redness. Some tearing, or wetness, may also be prevalent.
What Causes Pterygium?
You really don’t have to be a surfer to get “surfer’s eye.” Exposure to sunlight for extended periods of time, however, can increase your vulnerability to pterygium. This is especially true if you are on the water, where the sun’s damaging UV rays are easily reflected. Under conditions such as these, the mucous membrane known as the conjunctiva, lining the inside of the eyelids, can thicken as collagen in the eye begins to degrade.
Studies indicate that some people may have a genetic predisposition to pterygium. There also appears to be a higher incidence of this condition in men than in women.
How Can Surfer’s Eye Be Prevented?
There are ways to guard against getting pterygium, such as wearing good, wraparound sunglasses that effectively block UV rays. The use of a wide-brimmed hat for those ventures outdoors can also be helpful. Lubricating the eyes with eye drops, especially in hot, dry environments, is often beneficial as well. Since sun is not the only irritant, it’s smart to avoid exposure to smoke, dust and chemical pollutants.
Surfer’s Eye Treatment
If your condition has not responded to eye drops or ointments, surgery may be indicated to cure your surfer’s eye. In fact, surgery is the only way to conclusively remove a pterygium. There are several different types of surgeries available to you, performed by our highly qualified ophthalmologists at Advanced Eye Surgery Clinic. These include:
- Conjunctival Auto-Grafting – This safe, relatively simple procedure involves removing the pterygium, as well as a portion of the conjunctiva, the membrane on the inside of the upper eyelid. This tissue is then used to cover the area where the pterygium growth previously resided.
- Amniotic Membrane Transplantation – Equally safe and effective, this method consists of removing tissue from the inner layer of a placenta and utilizing it as a grafting material to cover the area where the pterygium was removed. This type of graft keeps swelling to a minimum and enhances the healing process.
In certain instances, the pterygium can return. So it is important to use an anti-cancer medication such as mitomycin-c during the course of the operation. This medication dramatically reduces the chance of a recurrence.
Staying the Course for Improved Vision
While pterygium, or surfer’s eye, is not considered to be a serious condition, in extreme cases it can cause significant vision problems if left untreated. Additionally, it is not uncommon for it to appear in both eyes. The best course of action is to treat it with artificial tears (eye drops) and monitor the condition regularly. If complications arise, surgery is the only real solution offering a satisfactory long-term outcome. The expert physicians at Advanced Eye Care Surgery Clinic possess the knowledge and expertise to perform this surgery in a timely, efficient manner.