What is Pterygium or Surfer's Eye?

Pterygium or Surfer's Eye is a pathological condition of the eye characterized by an elevated bump around the eyeballs which begins at the sclera or the white of the eyes and tends to infiltrate within the cornea. An individual can either have one of these lumps or there can be multiple lumps as well. Pterygium or Surfer's Eye usually affects one eye.

The conditions gets its name Surfer's Eye from the fact that individuals who stay in water a lot are exposed to the reflection of the rays of the sun directly to the eyes tend to get Pterygium or Surfer's Eye more than others. Being outdoors in bright sunlight for prolonged periods of time also tends to increase the risk for getting Pterygium or Surfer's Eye. An individual can have vision disturbance or permanent disfigurement of the eyes as a result of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye but can affect both eyes as well.

What is Pterygium or Surfer's Eye?

What Causes Pterygium or Surfer's Eye?

As stated, ultraviolet rays of the sun is the main culprit behind Pterygium or Surfer's Eye but prolonged exposure to sun and dust can also cause Pterygium or Surfer's Eye. A medical condition called Dry Eye Disease is also one of the causes of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye. This condition is normally seen in people of ages between 30 and 50. Pterygium or Surfer's Eye is very rare in children. People who have light skin and eyes are at a greater risk for developing Pterygium or Surfer's Eye.

What are the Symptoms of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye?

The bumps formed from Pterygium or Surfer's Eye normally occur at the left side of the eye but may also occur on the right side in some cases as well. It normally affects one eye but it may occur in both eyes at a time as well.

Normally, there are no symptoms caused by mild cases of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye but in cases where the bumps keep growing and invade the cornea the affected individual may feel persistent itching or burning of the eye. It is like a feeling as if something has gone into the eyes.

Pterygium may also cause redness of the eyes and disfigurement which may sometimes become permanent, especially if Pterygium or Surfer's Eye significantly invades the cornea and disturbs the shape of the eye. Astigmatism and other visual impairments may also result due to Pterygium or Surfer's Eye.

How is Pterygium or Surfer's Eye Treated?

Consultation with an ophthalmologist is the best way to treat Pterygium or Surfer's Eye. Physician may conduct a slit lamp examination to assess the damage caused by Pterygium or Surfer's Eye. Mild cases of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye do not require treatment and go away on their own. the irritation of the eyes caused due to this mild form of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye can be treated with eye ointments or wetting drops which are available over the counter.

Steroid eyedrops may also be prescribed to ease the inflammation along with the redness, itching, swelling, and pain in the eyes due to Pterygium or Surfer's Eye. The patient may have to take steroid eyedrops for several months in order to ease the inflammation and avoid any recurrence of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye.

An outpatient procedure may be required in cases where Pterygium or Surfer's Eye interferes with the vision of the patient but this procedure comes in with adherent risks and complications like return of the lump which may be more intense than before, development of scars around the cornea, astigmatism, or blurry vision.

Therefore, surgery for Pterygium or Surfer's Eye is only done if other forms of treatment have failed to provide relief to the patient and the vision of the patient becomes extremely poor due to Pterygium or Surfer's Eye and for cosmetic reason, meaning if the Pterygium or Surfer's Eye is big enough to cause the eyes to look unattractive or ugly.

During surgery for Pterygium or Surfer's Eye, the surgeon will remove the bump and replace the empty space with tissues from the conjunctiva. This procedure usually takes about an hour and the patient will have to wear an eye patch for a couple of days and can return to normal activities in about a week's time.

Once the patient has undergone the procedure to remove Pterygium or Surfer's Eye, it is imperative that he or she take good care of the eyes for about a year and avoid spending long days out in the sun without protecting the eyes with sunglasses, as Pterygium or Surfer's Eye tends to come back within a year postsurgery

Can Pterygium or Surfer's Eye Be Prevented?

Yes, Pterygium or Surfer's Eye can definitely be prevented provided that the individual takes good care of the eyes. Before venturing out in the sun for long periods of time, he or she should wear sunglasses for protection including those days when it is cloudy outside as clouds are unable to obstruct the UV rays of the sun. The individual needs to wear them while driving as well. One can also use a wide brimmed hat when he or she has to venture out in the sun along with sunglasses for added protection and prevent development of Pterygium or Surfer's Eye.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 2, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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