“Pterygium” is to the sport of wave surfing as tennis elbow is to tennis. If you surf, you are at risk. If you are a surfer who experiences frequent eye discomfort (as most do), and who uses no eye protection, you are at extreme risk. While pterygium is curable only by surgery, it is easily preventable and arrested.
“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). Once the membrane reaches the cornea, vision can be impaired. Although not life or health threatening, the condition can cause extreme eye discomfort and is very unsightly.
Pterygium is believed caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, intensified by reflection off the water. UV exposure is worsened by simultaneous exposure to wind, perspiration and salt water, all of which can cause the eye’s protective “tear film” to lose moisture. This leads to a condition called “dry eye syndrome.”
The same measures that prevent or alleviate dry eye will also prevent or arrest pterygium. If you are a surfer, you should pay extra attention to tear film health, not only when surfing but always.