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. Continue reading