What is Surfer’s Eye?

Spring is finally upon us which means clear skies and sunshine. Sweeney Eye of Sunnyvale wants to make sure that you keep your eyes protected while you are outside, because the Sun’s rays can cause more than just a sunburn.

Surfer’s Eye, also known as pterygium (tuh-RIJ-ee-uhm), is an elevated, wedged-shaped mass of flesh on the eyeball which begins in the corner of the eye, on the sclera (white part of the eye), and can eventually spread to the cornea.  As unappealing as it looks, it is relatively harmless in its early stages or if the mass is small. However, if left untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss if the mass grows over the cornea.

Even though this growth is commonly known as “Surfer’s Eye”, it has nothing to do with the act of surfing. Pterygium is caused by the Sun’s UV rays, so anyone who works outside in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time are at risk. Other factors, like dust and wind, increase the chance of it occurring, as well as having light skin or light eyes. Pterygium is common between the ages of 20 to 40 year olds, as well as people located in sunny regions. Common symptoms are an itchiness of the eye, redness, and a burning sensation. Some patients have also reported a feeling of something “in” their eye. The good news is that this mass is not cancerous, but it does need to be removed immediately. Take steps to prevent pterygium or the regrowth of it (after surgery) by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses or photochromic lenses.

If you find yourself always out in the sun, make sure to schedule an eye exam once or twice a year with your Sweeney Eye eye care physician, in Sunnyvale or Richardson, to help prevent the growth of pterygium.