Pterygium (Surfer's Eye) Prevention, Symptoms & Treatment

Eye showing pterygium

This eye condition has been dubbed as a surfer’s eye! It is called pterygium. This occurs when there is a raised, triangular shaped overgrowth of the conjunctival tissue over the surface of the eye’s cornea. Usually, it is bilateral and occurs on the nasal side of the cornea. The lesion can vary in appearance. From small and pink, it may become large and red with different symptoms like a dry eye, unacceptable appearance and blurred vision. The general cause is mostly genetics and excessive exposure to sun and wind which is common to surfers.

There are different symptoms that a person with suspected pterygium has to know. First, there is redness in the eye along with inflammation. Also, there is a gritty feeling in the eyes and a feeling that something is stuck in it. Dryness of the eye occurs as there is a reduced tear production. Lastly, since the corneal surface is altered, there is blurring of vision and obscured vision when the growth encompasses across the pupil.

Pterygium can be treated depending on its symptoms. If the pterygium is only small, it can be left alone safely, especially if the patient is living in temperate climates. However, patients should still be cautious to protect their eyes from ultraviolet light by wearing sunglasses and hats with peaked brims. Meanwhile, if the patient is experiencing symptoms of itch, burning or ocular irritation, an artificial tear drop preparation may be used to alleviate it. On the other hand, if there is an inflammation of the pterygium, mild steroid eye drops can be used with proper ophthalmological supervision.

There are also cases when there is a need for surgical intervention in pterygium. It may be brought upon by a significant ocular irritation that cannot be resolved by medical therapy alone. In other cases, surgery is needed as there is reduced visual acuity and continued documented progression of pterygium. Some patients, however, undergo pterygium surgery based on the cosmetic appearance.

A variety of surgical approaches may be recommended for someone with pterygium. There is simple excision which is quick and easy to perform. It is often combined with conjuctival autografting wherein the bare area following pterygium removal is covered with a free conjunctival graft from the superior conjunctiva. The graft is said to act as a barrier to recurrence making it a recommended and move favored technique. Last but not the least is the use of an Excimer laser to smooth out surface irregularities if there has been an extensive growth towards the centre of the cornea. It improves vision through that process. Sometimes there is also a need for a partial thickness corneal transplant if there is corneal thinning or irregularity.

After the pterygium surgery, it is normal that the eye feels sore for a few days and even irritable for several weeks. Eye drops may be prescribed by the doctor to alleviate this. Patients can usually resume their normal activities a week or two after the surgery. It is also essential to follow post-operative care advice by the doctor like taking protective measure to avoid exposure to excessive ultraviolet light.

Pterygium is a condition that causes a benign growth on the tissue of the eyes. Its symptoms usually include redness, inflammation, dryness of the eyes and blurred vision. It may be treated medically through eye drops and artificial tear drop preparation or surgically through simple incision, conjuctival autografting and excimer laser.

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