What is Surfer's Eye?

Surfer's Eye, also known as a pterygium, is a raised, fleshy growth filled with blood vessels that can grow on the eye's conjunctiva. Sometimes a pterygium stays small and asymptomatic, but in other cases, it grows larger and spreads to the cornea. It can cause unpleasant itchy, gritty, and burning sensations. In severe cases, a pterygium can even grow over the iris and pupil, causing astigmatism and blurred vision.

What Causes a Pterygium?

It isn't clear what the exact cause of a pterygium is, but there are factors that are thought to contribute to the risk of developing this condition. Spending a lot of time outside and being exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays are a contributing factor, hence the term "surfer's eye." Exposure to other elements like pollen, smoke, wind, and sand can also increase the risk of developing a pterygium. It is thought that certain disorders and deficiencies can cause these growths as well.

How Can I Prevent a Pterygium from Developing?

Wearing sunglasses religiously is a good way to deter the growth of a pterygium. Make sure your sunglasses protect against UVA and UVB rays. Shielding your eyes with a hat while outside is another preventative measure. Using eye drops and taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements can also help.

For those who already have a pterygium, it's a good idea to limit exposure to elements thought to exacerbate the condition. Avoiding prolonged time outside and protecting your eyes from sunlight, smoke, wind, dust, and pollen can help slow the growth of pterygium.

How is Pterygium Treated?

If a pterygium is interfering with your vision or causing discomfort, you should seek medical advice. An eye doctor can diagnose a pterygium with a physical exam using a slit lamp, though additional tests may be needed. Mild cases can be managed with ointments, eye drops, medications, and fastidious use of sunglasses. If the irritation remains despite using eye drops, or if there is a cosmetic concern, surgery is the next step.

At New Vision Eye Center, our fellowship trained cornea specialist David J. O'Brien, MD performs pterygium surgery and has the most advanced technology to do so successfully at our state of the art, on-site surgical center. We proudly serve patients in Vero Beach, Sebastian, St. Lucie, Melbourne, and beyond. If you have a pterygium or other eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, or are interested in LASIK, contact our office to schedule an appointment today.