Pterygium (Surfer's Eye)
Also known as “Surfer’s Eye”, Pterygium is a growth on the conjunctiva of your eye. The growth is non-cancerous and grows on the conjunctiva, which is the clear, thin tissue over the white part of your eye. You can get pterygium in one or both eyes and while the cause is unknown, there are some risk factors (including surfers or others who spend a lot of time in the water).
Causes of Pterygium
Unlike some other medical conditions of the eye, there isn’t a known cause of pterygium though some people will have risk factors of developing the condition. It is much more common in people with exposure to water, wind, and sunlight. Some of the risk factors for pterygium include those working outdoors such as farmers, general labors and landscapers, and fishermen. Anyone with outdoor hobbies is also at risk such as people enjoying surfing, body boarding, fishing, hiking, or mountain climbing.
Symptoms of Pterygium
The main symptom is the appearance of a raised white tissue in the outer or inner corner of your cornea. This area is usually painless when you have pterygium. You may also experience a burning sensation or have inflamed spots in the cornea, though this is unlikely. Additionally, it can feel like you have something stuck in your eye, such as dirt or an eyelash, but in fact it is the pterygium causing you to feel that. It is not uncommon to have no or few symptoms and not visit a doctor.
Diagnosing and Treating Pterygium
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should consult your doctor for a physical examination. During the exam, the doctor will examine your eyes and eyelids in order to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, tests are not needed for diagnosing pterygium. In most cases, there is no treatment needed for Pterygium. The exception would be if the pterygium is causing a block in your vision or causing symptoms like burning, pain, or inflammation. You should always wear protective glasses and a brimmed hat when you’re outdoors to prevent further damage form the pterygium. The main complication of pterygium is the fact that even though it can go away on its own, it may also return. This is what makes protective gear so vital if you work or have hobbies outdoors like fishing, camping, hiking, surfing, or similar activities. Protecting your eyes is also the best course of preventing pterygium from occurring.