A pterygium (plural is pterygia), otherwise known as “surfer’s eye,” is a fleshy growth of tissue raised and filled with blood vessels. It starts in the pink area of your eye (the conjunctiva) and spreads through the cornea, which is the clear protective shield covering the eye.
A pterygium commonly originates from the inner corner, on the nasal side of the eye. It spreads towards the pupil.
At the early stages, a person suffering from a pterygium rarely feels any symptoms. However, it can sometimes become inflamed and lead to itching, a gritty sensation on the eye, burning, and tears.
At the later stages, a pterygium can grow out of control. It can reach over the iris, pupil and possibly cause blurry vision. If left untreated, it can interfere with sight, making it an urgent health issue. The goal is not to let the growth become too large.
It is unclear what may cause a pterygium, but it is more common in areas near the equator, where prolonged exposure to sunlight and UV rays occurs. The condition is also seen in people who work in outdoor environments. Thus, the name “Surfer’s Eye” is because it frequently happens among surfers and other outdoor people for long periods.
Other theories exist that try to explain the possible causes of pterygium. Radiation activation of fibroblasts, or special growth cells, is another possible explanation, but there isn’t enough clinical evidence to back up that claim.
In addition to the theories mentioned above, other possible causes for a pterygium include:
Despite the knowledge about this condition, the precise cause of a pterygium is still unknown. Sometimes, it is classified as a tumor or a type of cancer. Current medical knowledge indicates that pterygium is entirely benign, which means it is not cancerous. It is a lesion in the eye that doesn’t spread to other areas of the body.
The best therapy for pterygium is preventing it from manifesting in the first place. It is essential to wear good quality polarized sunglasses and hats when exposed to sunlight. Eye drops may relieve the dryness and inflammation caused by this condition.
Surgical excision may be indicated if the growth starts to cause blurry vision.
The first step to take if you suspect you have pterygium is to schedule a consultation with an eye specialist. This general ophthalmologist condition is not severe; it has an easy solution to treat and prevent it. A thorough assessment of your eye will confirm if you have a pterygium.