Pterygium Is Pterrible.
“Pterygium” is to the sport of wave surfing as tennis elbow is to tennis. In short, you don’t want any part of it and a wise surfer will do whatever it takes to avoid it. Make no mistake, if you are a surfer, you are definitely at risk. If you are a surfer who experiences frequent eye discomfort (as most surfers do), and who uses no eye protection, you could be at extreme risk.
The good news is that while pterygium is curable only by surgery, it is easily preventable. This article will offer the latest education about the condition known as “pterygium” or “surfer’s eye,” including some information you probably haven’t heard before, to help you enjoy your sport while maintaining strong, healthy eyes.
What Causes “Surfer’s Eye”?
The word pterygium is Greek for “wing.” Pterygium can occur elsewhere on the body but we are concerned here only with “conjunctival pterygium,” which affects the eyes. “Conjunctival pterygium” refers to a wing-like membrane that begins growing near the “conjunctiva” (the corner of the eye near the nose) and gradually works its way towards the cornea (the eye’s clear portion), covering more and more of the eyeball as it progresses. Once the membrane reaches the cornea, vision can be impaired. Although the condition is considered “benign” (not a threat to life or health), it can cause extreme eye discomfort including itching, burning, redness and other symptoms (see box). It is also very unsightly. While discomfort can be relieved, and the progress of a pterygium growth can be arrested, pterygium cannot be reversed except through surgery.
Pterygium is believed to be caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, intensified by reflection off the water (snow skiers are also susceptible but usually wear sunglasses or goggles). The UV exposure is made worse by simultaneous exposure to a number of factors that affect the eye’s all-important “tear film” and could impair its protective ability. Wind, solar radiation and numerous bacteria and microorganisms found in sea water are all known to cause the tear film to lose moisture, creating a condition called “dry eye syndrome” (whose symptoms are identical to the discomfort symptoms associated with pterygium). When the tear film loses moisture, tear salt becomes over-concentrated and starts to act as an irritant. Frequent exposure to salt water could heighten this effect.
Here is the point: The same steps that prevent or alleviate dry eye and eye discomfort will also prevent Pterygium.
Dry Eye and the All-Important Tear Film.
The eye’s first line of defense against external irritants is the extremely thin but highly complex tear film that coats the optical surface. Numerous environmental factors, including bacteria, UV radiation, wind, dust, airborne sand, air pollution, air-conditioning and much more, can cause evaporation that results in slight, moderate or even severe tear film moisture (water) loss, known as “dehydration” or dry eye. You may not feel the symptoms in slight or moderate moisture loss.
When eyes are simultaneously exposed to several strongly dehydrating factors, discomfort is definitely experienced, small lesions begin to appear on the corneal surface and the tear film cannot function normally. Keep this up and conditions will be in place for pteygium. Fortunately, everything but the pterygium is immediately reversed once tear film moisture is replenished.
Bio-Logic Aqua Research has discovered that the best (and least expensive) way to mitigate the effect of irritants on the eyes is to pay attention to the health of your tear film.
A New Discovery.
The standard method of alleviating dry eye symptoms is the application of chemically formulated eye drops and redness relievers. While these products are often extremely helpful, and highly recommended, they are not always well tolerated and could be less than ideal for some:
1. Drops add no water to the tear film, or any other natural ingredient.
2. Individual drops are so large that they can flood the tear film and wash away protective factors such as the evaporation-slowing lipid (oil and fat) layer and bacteria-fighting antibodies.
3. Many people experience an allergic reaction to the chemicals and preservatives in eye drops.
4. Drops can be difficult and uncomfortable to apply and are therefore often avoided.
5. Drops may only be safely applied four to six times a day.
A newly discovered alternative method of soothing dry irritated eyes (that is also more natural, safe and environmentally green), and of mitigating dehydrating environmental challenges to the eye, is to simply add pure, fresh, pH-balanced humidity to the air around the eyes. The humid mist will find its way into the tear film’s aqueous (water) layer in just the right amount (two-to-five nanoliters) to help alleviate symptoms naturally, without drops or chemical formulations.
Nature’s Tears EyeMist.
The problem has been finding a way to bottle the natural, fresh, beneficial humidity of a spring rain and apply it to the eyes. This was finally solved by Bio-Logic Aqua Research. The result is Nature’s Tears EyeMist with the uniquely biocompatible “Bio-Logic Aqua tissue-culture grade water.” A specially designed mist applicator breaks the water into micron-sized droplets (patent pending) that duplicate natural humidity no matter what the surrounding environmental conditions. Because Nature’s Tears EyeMist contains no harmful propellants, preservatives or chemicals, it can be applied whenever discomfort is felt. Application several times a day can help prevent or lessen the severity of reactions to UV, sun and salt-water exposure.
Nature’s Tears EyeMist should be applied to replenish lost eye moisture prior to applying eye drops, or to keep the tear film moist in between allowable dye drop doses. Surfers should use it before entering the water and after every surfing run.
Maintaining a Healthy Tear Film.
Although everyone is susceptible to tear film dehydration, if you are a surfer, you should pay extra attention tear film health, not only when surfing but always. A healthy tear film at home can better fight off extreme challenges at the beach.
Wear eye protection when in the water (tinted, water-tight goggles).
Wear sunglasses on the beach.
Take a shower, and/or wash your eyes with a warm compress, as soon as possible after surfing.
Set out bowls of water in your house to humidify the air, especially when the heater or air-conditioner are on.
Treat yourself to frequent long, luxuriant baths and/or showers (a brief shower after your bath will wash off residue).
Make a ritual of daily facial cleansing. Using a washcloth and very mild, liquid soap, spend five to ten minutes applying repeated hot water compresses to your face (This also helps keep the eyelid skin healthy, where glands are located that produce many of the tear film’s components).
Let as much fresh air into the house as you can, especially in the bathroom.
Keep Nature’s Tears EyeMist in your bathroom, car, locker room, and with you at the beach. Use it before and after cleansing your face in the morning, before each eye drop application, after every surfing run and during the day whenever eye discomfort is experienced.