Surfer's eye: blame it on the sun, sand, wind and salt | Photo:

Surfer's eye, or pterygium, is a condition in which a non-cancerous growth of fleshy tissue appears on the surface of the eye.

This growth usually starts in the corner of the eye, close to the nose, and can gradually evolve over the cornea, potentially obscuring vision.

The condition is especially common among surfers, hence the name, due to the amount of time spent in bright, sunny conditions.

Surfer's eye is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40 and is caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

The UV light causes the delicate tissue of the conjunctiva - the thin membrane that lines the eyelids - to become inflamed and thickened.

This thickening of the conjunctiva causes the growth of the tissue, which then blocks the cornea.

Pterygium can cause a variety of symptoms, including itchiness, irritation, dryness, eye redness, inflammation, burning, tearing, and a foreign body sensation.

In more advanced cases, it can cause blurry vision, a decrease in vision, and even astigmatism. It can also make the eyes more sensitive to light.

Surfer's eye can usually be treated with artificial tears, which can help to soothe the irritated eye.

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the pterygium.

Surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis and involves removing the growth and replacing it with a small piece of tissue from the patient's own eyelid.

Surfer's eye is preventable with the use of sunglasses or protective eyewear, as well as by avoiding direct exposure to UV light when possible.

It is important to note that sun exposure is not the only cause of surfer's eye, and other factors such as air pollution, wind, and dry air can also be contributing factors.

It is a preventable condition, and using sunglasses or protective eyewear can help reduce the risk of developing it.

If symptoms of surfer's eye do develop, artificial tears can usually help to soothe the eye.

Causes of Surfer's Eye

The most common cause of surfer's eye is too much exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Wind and sand can also irritate the eye and increase the likelihood of developing pterygium.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors, including surfers, bodyboarders, windsurfers, and kiteboarders, without proper protection, are more likely to develop surfer's eye.

This includes people who work or play in the sun, as well as those who live in sunny climates.

Surfer's eye is also linked to certain health conditions, such as diabetes and autoimmune diseases.

People who are taking certain medications, such as steroids, may also be at a higher risk of developing pterygium.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of surfer's eye may include redness, irritation, a feeling of a foreign body in the eye, and blurred vision.

The growth may start out small but can grow over time if not treated. It may start as just a red patch on the eye but can grow to cover the cornea.

Diagnosis is usually made with a comprehensive eye exam. The doctor will check for growth and look for signs of damage to the eye.

They may also do tests to check for changes in vision, such as a refraction test.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are a number of treatments available for pterygium. The most common treatment is the use of artificial tears, or lubricating eye drops to reduce irritation.

Corticosteroid eye drops may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the growth and repair any damage caused by the condition.

Surgery to remove a surfer's eye usually involves a local anesthetic and a small incision in the affected eye.

The doctor will then remove the growth and any surrounding tissue that may have been damaged. They may also repair any scarring or other damage caused by the pterygium.

After surgery, your doctor may recommend the use of artificial tears to reduce irritation and lubricate the eye.

It is important to note that surgery may not be necessary in all cases.

If your symptoms are mild and do not cause discomfort, your doctor may simply monitor your condition.

If you notice any symptoms of surfer's eye, it is important to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

With the right treatment, you can reduce your symptoms and keep your vision healthy.

Prevention Tips for Surfer's Eye

Luckily, there are some precautions you can take to help prevent surfer's eye. First and foremost, always wear sunglasses that have UV protection.

Wearing sunglasses will help shield your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet rays, which can contribute to the growth of pterygium.

Look for sunglasses with UV 400 protection, which will block out the most UV rays.

If you're going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, wear a hat with a brim. This will help keep the sun off your eyes and face.

It's also a good idea to limit your time in the sun during peak hours. The sun's rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so try to stay in the shade during that time.

Don't rub or scratch your eyes if you're already experiencing signs of pterygium, such as redness, itchiness, or a feeling of sand. This can make the condition worse.

Instead, use artificial tears or eye drops to keep your eyes hydrated and soothe any irritation.

Finally, if you experience any vision changes or have any concerns about your eyes, see an ophthalmologist.

They may be able to diagnose and treat the condition before it gets worse.

By following the above suggestions, you can help protect yourself from surfer's eye.

Remember to always wear sunglasses, limit your time in the sun, and consult an eye doctor if you experience any vision changes.

Link Between Surfing and Pterygium

Surfer's eye is a very common condition among people who spend a lot of time in the sun, particularly those who are involved in water sports such as surfing.

Surfers are particularly vulnerable to the condition because of the amount of time they spend in the water, which can lead to long-term exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays.

Pros and Cons of Surgery

Surgery is an option for treating surfer's eye, but there are both pros and cons to consider.

The main advantage of surgery is that it can remove tissue growth and improve vision. In some cases, the growth may even be eliminated entirely.

Surgery may also reduce the risk of developing complications, such as infection or inflammation.

People who have gone into the operating room may experience fewer symptoms, such as burning, itching, or dryness.

However, there are potential risks associated with surgery. These include pain, irritation, bleeding, and even vision loss.

In addition, the surgery may not be successful in completely removing the tissue growth.

And even if the surgery is successful, the growth may come back.

Overall, the decision to have surgery for pterygium is a personal one. People should consider their options carefully and talk to their doctor to decide if surgery is the best choice for them.

Natural Remedies

Natural remedies for surfer's eye are becoming increasingly popular, as they can help to reduce symptoms and slow the growth of the pterygium.

The first step in treating is to protect the eyes from UV and windy conditions.

Another popular natural remedy is to apply a warm compress to the affected eye - this can help to reduce swelling and irritation.

To make a compress, soak a clean cloth in warm water, then apply it to the eye for 10 minutes, repeating every few hours as needed.

Apple cider vinegar is another natural remedy that can be used to reduce the symptoms of pterygium.

When diluted with water, this vinegar can be used as an eye wash to reduce inflammation and irritation.

Finally, eating foods rich in antioxidants is beneficial for treating surfer's eye - berries, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and citrus fruits are packed with antioxidants.

These antioxidants can help to protect the eyes from UV exposure and reduce symptoms of the condition.

Impact on Quality of Life

While the condition is not life-threatening, it can have a significant impact on quality of life.

People with surfer's eye may experience blurred vision, eye irritation, and sensitivity to light.

This can make it difficult to perform everyday activities such as reading, driving, or using a computer.

In severe cases, the growth can even block part of the eye and cause a decrease in vision.

By taking steps to protect your eyes from the sun, getting regular eye exams, and seeking treatment when necessary, you can reduce the risk of suffering from the condition and maintain a good quality of life.

Latest Developments in the Treatment

Luckily, there have been some exciting developments in the treatment of pterygium in recent years.

One of the most promising is the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, either taken orally or applied directly to the eye.

These drugs help reduce the inflammation that can lead to surfer's eye and can help improve the patient's quality of life by reducing the discomfort and vision problems associated with the condition.

In addition, there are now various treatments available to remove the growth itself, including laser treatments, cryotherapy (freezing the growth), and surgery.

These treatments can be used to reduce the size of the growth, improve vision, and reduce discomfort.

Learn more about the most common diseases in surfing.

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