Surfers Eye – What is Pterygium – Symptoms – Causes and Treatment

A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth, similar to a cataract, that forms on the surface of the eyeball. Exposure to ultra violet rays is thought to be the cause. Although not a life threatening condition, its growth could cause some loss of vision and it should be monitored closely. Symptoms – Sometimes a person with pterygia has no pain or any symptoms at all, making it difficult to diagnose the condition.

Symptoms of Pterygium




  1. eyes that are red and itchy.
  2. the eyes are swollen and feel some irritation, as if there is a foreign body in the eye
  3. Rubbing the eyes will invariably worsen the symptoms
  4. it could even tear the eyelids and cause bleeding
  5. The person affected might even experience some blurring of vision as a result of the pterygium growing over the central part of the cornea.
  6. All of these symptoms could vary from mild to severe. There could also be elevated growths on the conjunctiva and cornea of one or both eyes.
  7. Interestingly, the growths usually start on the inside of the eye, against the nose.
  8. People with pterygia who wear contact lenses might find the use of disposable lenses preferable. You can buy cheap Focus Dailies at GetLenses.

Causes of Pterygium

  1. It is believed that the ultra violet light in sunshine is the cause.
  2. It is also aggravated by dry conditions and by dust.
  3. Another name for pterygia is Surfer’s Eye, as many surfers suffer from this condition.
  4. This sport necessitates many hours in the sun.
  5. An added problem is the reflection of the rays off the sand and the water, in a way doubling the sunlight that a surfer’s eyes are subjected to.
  6. This is much like somebody moving on snow whilst the sun is shining.
  7. But where snow can be blinding and skiers often wear sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, the sun reflecting off the water is not as bright. Surfers therefore mistakenly believe they do not need sunglasses.

Treatment of Pterygium

The first line of defence with this disease, as with most others, is prevention.

  1. Avoid exposure to the ultra violet rays of the sun by wearing sunglasses that cut out UVA and UVB rays, even on cloudy days.
  2. Add a wide brimmed hat to that and you will be well prepared.
  3. Using special eye drops called artificial tears throughout the day should also help.
  4. If you have been diagnosed with a pterygium and it is not too advanced or not a cause of irritation, no treatment is necessary other than to limit the spread of the growth.
  5. Protective sunglasses, a hat and the use of special eye drops should be sufficient.

If symptoms are more advanced, your medical practitioner might prescribe a topical corticosteroid, which consists of anti-inflammatory drops used in the eye over a short period of time, usually less than fourteen days. If the growth gets worse, irradiation could be used to limit the effects. In cases where the growth obscures vision or is physically unattractive, it can be surgically removed. Part of the conjunctiva is removed with the pterygium. Tissue from the inside of the patient’s eyelid is removed and transplanted to the eyeball to compensate for the loss of the conjunctiva. This is called auto-grafting, as the patient’s own tissue is used. The rate of success is very high. An alternative to auto-grafting is a process called amniotic membrane transplantation. A sample of tissue is taken from the innermost layer of the placenta and transplanted to the eye where the pterygium and conjunctiva have been removed. This also has a very high rate of success. After the operation, the use of steroid eye drops is gradually decreased to avoid complications such as increased pressure in the eyeball. Unfortunately many pterygia lesions return. In such cases a small round plaque containing strontium, a radioactive material, is placed directly on the growth. The radioactivity penetrates for only a very small distance, inhibiting the re-growth of the blood vessels that transport the pterygium to the same site. Apart from surgical removal, there is no other medical treatment or medication to limit the growth or return of a pterygium. Although pterygia is not a life threatening disease, it is better to guard yourself from contracting it, as it could be a source of great irritation. It could also threaten part of your eyesight if not treated in time. The preventive measures are steps for good eye hygiene in general and should be taken by everyone anyway, regardless of age or condition of health. Our eyes are precious and once we lose our eyesight, the chances are that we cannot get it back.

About the Guest BloggerAJ writes regularly on health issues for a range of health websites and blogs. She is a registered nurse with more than two decades of experience and she focuses on eye health. She wears Focus Dailies and suggests that you can buy cheap Focus Dailies at GetLenses.

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