What is Surfer’s Eye, or Pterygium

Eye conditions can have a variety of causes, but pterygium is often referred to as “surfer’s eye,” as it is most commonly caused by frequent exposure to sunny environments. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly in sunny, windy, and dusty environments, such as beaches, may be more likely to develop a pterygium. Surfers, in particular, are often exposed to intense sunlight, strong winds, and reflective glare from water surfaces.

If you think you may have a pterygium or want to learn more about the condition (such as how it may be prevented!), keep reading or contact our team at Valley Eye Specialists Brisbane for personalised advice.

What does a pterygium look like?

A pterygium is typically visible, as you will notice that an overgrowth of tissue from the white of the eye has begun moving across the cornea. The tissue usually appears in a triangular-like shape and may continue to grow or stay the same. The condition can interfere with vision if the tissue continues to grow, but even when it remains stationary, it can cause discomfort, redness and inflammation.

What are the causes of pterygium?

Prolonged, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is often the main cause of the condition, but other environmental factors can also contribute.

Windy environments, such as those found near coastal areas or on beaches, can lead to increased exposure to airborne particles and dust. Other dusty, dry environments can also cause the condition. These particles can irritate the eyes and contribute to the development or progression of pterygium.

Windy conditions and exposure to saltwater can also increase dry eye symptoms, leading to more irritation and inflammation. The continued irritation of the conjunctiva caused by these environments may contribute to the cause of a pterygium over time.

There is also a possibility that reflective glare can increase the likelihood of experiencing the condition, as it can cause an increased exposure to UV rays. Water surfaces, such as the ocean, reflect sunlight and can increase the amount of UV radiation that reaches the eyes.

How a pterygium can be treated

Typically, a pterygium can be removed with eye surgery, performed by an ophthalmologist. Other treatment steps may also be put into place, such as avoiding irritants, using lubricating eyedrops, and using eyedrops that can temporarily relieve symptoms (such as redness). Sometimes, other conditions can cause changes in the eye that are similar to those caused by a pterygium, so the condition needs an accurate diagnosis before it can be treated.

When it comes to the need for eye surgery, an ophthalmologist may recommend treatment if the condition is causing chronic redness, irritation, or changes to vision, but surgery can also be sought out to treat the change in appearance.

The surgery is performed by carefully removing the tissue overgrowth. It can be performed as a day surgery, with local anaesthetic and light sedation. A technique can be used to help prevent the recurrence of a pterygium, which involves filling in the operated section of the eye with a graft of conjunctiva, taken from another part of the eye surface.

Surgery is planned with detailed steps, after a thorough consultation to consider your individual needs. If you need eye surgery, you will be able to receive more information during your initial appointment, get personalised advice and ask any further questions about the procedure. You’ll also be provided with instructions to help your eye heal after the procedure.

How to prevent a pterygium

Since the condition is most often caused by excessive UV ray exposure, the first step in preventing a pterygium is to wear sun protection. Sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats are efficient when it comes to shielding the eyes from sunlight, but aiming to reduce sun exposure by taking breaks in the shade can also help, if possible. Eyeglasses can also help protect the eyes from dust and strong winds.

The likelihood of developing a pterygium can also be higher when an individual is exposed to excessive sunlight at an early age, so ensuring that young children are protecting their eyes will help prevent the development of pterygium in the future.

Regular eye tests can help to detect and monitor the progression of pterygium, allowing for early intervention and management to prevent the condition from worsening. Eye tests can include diagnostic imaging, taking measurements and using special eyedrops. If your eyes are constantly exposed to dry, dusty, sunny conditions, it may be a good idea to see an ophthalmologist for regular checkups.

Valley Eye Specialists: Pterygium surgery in Brisbane

If left untreated, a pterygium may lead to chronic irritation and redness or interfere with clear vision. Our experienced ophthalmologists at Valley Eye can perform a thorough eye examination, correctly diagnose the condition, and recommend treatment options. If you need eye surgery, we have ophthalmologists who specialise in pterygium surgery, using modern techniques to help prevent the condition from recurring.

Contact our team today to book your appointment at our Brisbane clinic!