“Surfer’s eye” is a slang term for an eye growth called pterygium. Pterygium grows on the conjunctiva, which is the clear mucous membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids. Pterygium is noncancerous, but may cause eye irritation, discoloration and excessive tearing. The growth may remain small or enlarge until it interferes with vision. Depending on the case, pterygium may be red, swollen, thick or large enough to affect the shape of the cornea (leading to astigmatism).
It is believed that pterygium is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, as well as excessive exposure to wind and dirt. Since surfers are frequently exposed to these elements, pterygium developed the nickname “surfer’s eye.”
Before we consider the available treatment options, let’s review the symptoms of pterygium:
- Red/pink color on the inner corner of the eye
- Dry or gritty sensation
- Tired eyes
- Blurred vision
- Feeling of something in your eye
The team at Laser Eye Center can diagnose pterygium during a simple eye exam and review the available treatment options.
The simplest and least invasive pterygium treatment is lubricating eye drops, ointments or mild steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation.
Unfortunately, some cases of pterygium advance and start to interfere with vision. It then becomes necessary to remove the pterygium surgically. The surgery takes approximately half an hour, and requires a couple days of recovery.
During surgery, the doctor anesthetizes the eye and extracts the pterygium and eye tissue covering the conjunctiva. The doctor will place and adhere a graft over the removed tissue. After surgery, the doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops to use for several weeks to reduce swelling and decrease the risk of regrowth.
Preventing the Recurrence of Surfer’s Eye
It is possible for pterygium to grow back. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the pterygium recurrence rate is between 30 and 40 percent, and more likely to occur in people under the age of 40. However, you can take steps to prevent recurrence by protecting your eyes from the sun, wind and dirt. Wear wraparound sunglasses with UV protection while outdoors and use artificial tears to keep your eyes moist in dry conditions. If you notice any irregularities or regrowth, contact your doctor immediately.
For more information about detecting or treating surfer’s eye, please contact Laser Eye Center by calling 800-80-LASER or sending us an email.