What Is Surfer's Eye? Pterygium Causes and Symptoms
Although the condition is aptly named after a specific type of athlete, it can affect anyone. It is especially true if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Its main symptom is fleshy, pink tissues on your conjunctiva. It is the clear tissue that covers your eyeball and lines your eyelids. It often develops on the sides closer to the nose and grows towards the pupil.
The Severity of a Pterygium
Though it may appear to be scary, it is not cancer. Its appearance may spread gradually in your lifetime or stop at some point. In some extreme but rare cases, it can cover your pupil, resulting in vision issues. Bilateral pterygium occurs when the condition affects both eyes.
Surfer's eye is not a severe condition, but its symptoms can be irritating. It may make you feel like you constantly have something in the eye. You may also experience irritation and redness, prompting surgical or medical intervention.
Symptoms of Surfer's Eye
In some instances, a pterygium shows up with no symptoms. But when symptoms are present, your eyes might experience the following:
Your eyes may feel gritty
You might feel like you have something in your eye
If the condition spreads to your pupil, it could alter its shape, causing double or blurred vision. Also, before the surfer's eye appears, you may experience a condition called a pinguecula. A related condition forms a yellowish bump or patch on your conjunctiva.
Causes of Pterygium
Experts do not know the exact cause of the surfer's eye. However, they suggest that it could be due to overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. It is because it commonly affects people who live in warm, sunny environments.
Also, it is more common for people who spend long periods outdoors in windy or sunny conditions. If your eyes suffer overexposure to certain elements, you have a high risk of developing a pterygium. These elements include wind, pollen, sand, and smoke.
Diagnosing a Pterygium
Diagnosing a surfer's eye is not complicated. Your optometrist may diagnose a pterygium based on a slit lamp examination. The lamp helps your eye doctor examine your eye using bright lighting and magnification. Your optometrist might also perform additional tests like:
Photo Documentation - Taking photos to track the development rate of a pterygium
Corneal Topography - Measuring the changes in your cornea's curvature
Visual Acuity Test - Reading of letters on a medical eye chart
Surfer's Eye Treatment
Unless it is causing severe discomfort or affecting your vision, a pterygium does not require treatment. However, your optometrist needs to check your eyes occasionally to see if the growth is causing vision issues. If you are experiencing excessive redness or irritation, your eye doctor may prescribe eye ointments or eye drops containing corticosteroids. They help reduce inflammation.
If this does not work, you may require surgery to remove the pterygium. It is especially true if your condition leads to astigmatism or vision loss that causes blurry vision.
For more info on pterygium causes and symptoms, visit Maple Eye and Laser Center at our White Plains or Manhattan, New York office. Call 914-948-5157 today to schedule an appointment.