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Could You Have Surfer's Eye?

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Pterygium, commonly known as Surfer's Eye, is a benign growth on the white of the eye. The condition can affect one or both eyes. Although usually not serious, more severe cases can cause loss of vision. While what leads to the development of pterygium is unclear, experts believe unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays is a cause, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Who Gets Surfer's Eye

Pterygium is common in surfers and other people who spend a lot of time outdoors in the sunlight. But the condition can affect anyone, including children. Since frequent and excessive exposure to the sun without wearing sunglasses may be a primary cause, pterygium often is seen in adults ages 20 to 40 who live in sunny climates.

Dust, wind, dry conditions, and ultraviolet rays reflecting off the sand and water can aggravate Surfer's Eye. Smoky conditions may be another risk factor.

The Path It Takes

The lesion usually starts to grow in the inner corner of the eye. It grows slowly but may advance until it covers part of the iris and pupil of the eye. In some cases, the lesion stops growing. While rare, in more advanced cases, the lesion may continue to grow to the point that it affects vision.

Although the condition starts as a yellowish spot on the conjunctiva of the eye, the growth later becomes white and triangular in appearance. Leaving it untreated doesn't mean it will continue to grow. Often, pterygium goes away on its own without any medical treatment.

Symptoms of pterygium vary from mild to severe but may include:

  • Red, itchy eyes

  • Dry eyes

  • Tired eyes

  • The feeling you have something in your eye

  • Corner of the eye looks pink or red

  • Blurred vision

Early detection can prevent serious eye problems, but the condition can be difficult to diagnose early on. The growth is painless, and individuals often experience no symptoms until it grows larger. Large pterygium can lead to astigmatism -- a refractive error characterized by irregular shape of the cornea.

Treating Surfer's Eye

Lubricating eye drops or artificial tears to keep your eyes moist may be enough to manage eye irritation and discomfort if you have only a mild case of Surfer's Eye. If the lesion continues to grow until it affects your vision, your eye doctor may consider surgically removing the growth.

Even with surgery, pterygia grow back in many cases, especially if you're younger than age 40. Although uncommon, infection and scarring can be other potential complications following surgery.

Make an appointment with an eye doctor, such as Modern Eyez, to check on any eye conditions that worry you. They can help you diagnose and treat any eye issues you have.