A Pterygium, commonly called “surfer’s eye,” is a non-cancerous, elevated wedge-shaped growth that starts on the conjunctiva, (the white part of the eye) and can spread to the cornea. It is usually related to irritation from the sun or dryness and commonly seen in people who spend long hours in bright sunlight, especially on water, which reflects the sun’s UV rays. Prolonged exposure to dust and wind can also cause pterygium to develop.
Symptoms of a Pterygium
Pterygia usually occur on the inside of the eye, closer to the nose, but can also develop on the outer side of the eye. If you have a pterygium, you can see a whitish or yellowish growth near the iris, which may progress by moving toward the pupil area.
Mild pterygium may not cause any vision symptoms or require treatment, but a larger pterygium can cause a gritty, itchy, or burning sensation, or the feeling that something is in the eye. Pterygia can also cause inflamed, red eyes, and may result in blurred vision.
Treatment for a Pterygium
Treatment of surfer’s eye depends on the size of the pterygium, and whether or not it is growing or causing symptoms. Regardless of the severity, any pterygium should be monitored to prevent scarring that could lead to vision loss. If a pterygium is small, lubricants or a mild steroid eye drop may be prescribed to reduce redness and swelling. If the pterygium invades the cornea, it may require surgical removal.
In many cases (20 to 30 percent) of pterygia grow back. Some may require an additional surgery to remove the re-growth, but some re-growths remain small enough that they do not invade the cornea.
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