How surgeons remove pterygium from a surfer's eye

Pterygium: the so-called surfer's eye is caused by frequent exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays | Photo: Partensky/Creative Commons

Pterygium, also known as Surfer's Eye, is a benign growth of tissue over the cornea, the clear part of the eye. It usually appears in the nasal corner due to irritation from ultraviolet energy.

As the pterygium starts to overlap the surface of the eye, it causes redness, blurred vision, and a cosmetic blemish.

Pterygium looks like the wing of a bird that grows from the side of the nose over the eye.

People who are frequently exposed to sunlight, like surfers, are more likely to develop this condition. UV rays break down the original tissue, and scar tissue grows in its place.

Pterygium surgery is performed with the patient awake, and it only takes around 20 to 30 minutes.

In order to release the head of the pinkish mass from the side wall of the eye, surgeons must be careful not to use instruments that are too sharp.

The eye specialists take scissors and gently snip away the head of the pterygium.

Pterygium: a 20-minute surgery removes the surfer's eye completely | Photo: Boston/Creative Commons

Because the procedure leaves a defect, surgeons have to smooth the region, lift up the edges of it, and insert medicated sponges to help prevent the recurrence of the scar tissue.

Finally, on top of it, doctors apply biological glue followed by an amniotic membrane that seals the wound, preventing the scar tissue from growing back.

Untreated surfer's eye can grow all the way across the cornea, eventually leading to blindness.

Surfers living or catching waves near equatorial regions of the world are more likely to develop pterygium because they are more exposed to the sun's UV rays.

Pterygium removal is not a painful, terrifying experience. Although you're awake, it doesn't hurt, and the drugs will make you feel better.

You will probably have to wear an eye patch and must be prepared to stay out of the water for over a month.

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