The surfer's eye, also known as pterygium, is a condition characterized by a pink, fleshy wedge-shaped growth on the white part of the eyeball. It most often forms in the corner of the eye closest to the nose and spreads over the surface of the eye to the pupil. In more severe cases, the surfer's eye can obstruct the cornea and pupil , causing blurred vision.
The surfer's eye may seem intimidating, but the good news is that it is painless and completely treatable. In fact, pterygium (plural of pterygium), which affects vision, can be surgically removed in about 30 to 45 minutes. Read on to learn more about the surfer's eye and how to protect your eyesight from damage.
In some cases, the surfer's eyes, especially in minor cases, may not show any symptoms until the pterygium is large enough to be seen or felt. Until then, your eyes may feel irritated, itchy, gritty , or burning, and you may experience redness or blurred vision. A very thick or large pterygium can even make it feel like a foreign object is stuck in the eye.
Before developing a surfer's eye, you may notice a pinguecula or a small bump or yellowish patch on the white of the eye. These benign lumps are usually made up of deposits of fat, calcium or protein and can be the forerunners of the surfer's eye.
If your eyes are itchy or irritated and you notice growth on the surface of your eye, make an appointment with your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Both the pinguecula and the surfer's eye are benign and treatable, but can cause discomfort and vision problems later in life.
Although it is named after surfers, it is not only beach lovers who can develop the surfer's eye. Some common causes of pterygium include:
- Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light : People who spend a lot of time outdoors, for work or recreational reasons, are at higher risk of developing surfer's eyes.
- Previous Dry Eyes : If you have had or have dry eyes , you may be more prone to developing surfer eyes.
- Irritant Exposure : Dust, sand, and wind can worsen a surfer's eye condition, exacerbate symptoms, and promote eye growth.
- Your family history : Some researchers believe that people with a family history of pterygium are more likely to develop the condition than those without.
Anyone can develop a surfer's eye, but age, gender, and geographic location can increase your risk.
- In most cases, a surfer's eyes don't develop until they are 20 years old; Patients between the ages of 20 and 40 are more likely to develop pterygiums (single lesions), while patients older than 40 years are more likely to develop pterygiums (multiple neoplasms).
- In men, the eyes of a surfer are twice as high as in women.
- People who live closer to the equator are at greater risk of exposure to stronger ultraviolet light. In the United States, the prevalence rate is less than 2 percent; rates rise to 5-15 percent in places closer to the equator .
If you start to show any surfer's eye symptoms, especially any growth on the eyeball, see your ophthalmologist. They will be able to diagnose your condition based on a series of questions and a physical exam. They will also likely examine the eye with a specially designed microscope called a slit lamp.
Although the surfer's eye is benign and treatable, it is important to rule out other serious ophthalmic conditions, such as an eyeball injury or squamous cell carcinoma .
In most cases, the surfer's eye does not require long-term permanent treatment. In fact, minor cases do not require any treatment.
However, if your condition is uncomfortable, your healthcare provider may prescribe a different type of eye drop to ease it. Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops can relieve dryness associated with surfers' eyes, while corticosteroid eye drops (which contain certain types of steroids) have anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve itching, redness, and the burning in the eyes.
A surfer's eye can be treated surgically if it interferes with vision or causes severe discomfort, or if the patient decides to have surgery for cosmetic reasons. Although the operation is usually done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia, many doctors only perform it if other treatment options have failed, significantly affects your vision, or if you are very unhappy with your appearance.
As with any surgery, there are certain risks and possible complications: Your pterygium may return as a larger, more aggressive growth; You may have cuts or scars on your cornea. and any damage to the cornea during surgery can result in blurred or impaired vision.
Always check with your doctor before using eye drops, eye ointments, or other treatments. If you are planning an operation, be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your ophthalmologist.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect your eyes and prevent them from developing.
- Always wear sunglasses – Choose sunglasses that block 90-100 percent of UV light and wear them every day, even on cloudy, overcast days, and when you're in the car. Sunglasses can also provide protection against irritants like sand, dust, or wind.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat – Baseball caps and sun hats can protect your eyes from sunlight.
- Use Moisturizing Eye Drops : When in very dry, windy, or dusty places, use over-the-counter eye drops to properly lubricate your eyes.
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As with any condition that affects the eyes and vision, a surfer's eye can be a scary diagnosis. However, it is important to remember that this condition is not cancerous and, in most cases, it is easily treatable. Protect your eyes from UV rays and irritants like wind or dust, and always wear sunglasses or a hat when outdoors.