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Primary Eye Care Associates

Surfer's Eye (Pterygium): What Causes It and Your Treatment Options

By Dr. Steven Chander on July 19, 2016

Pinguecula and PterygiumThe team at Primary Eye Care Associates is prepared to address a diverse array of vision problems that may affect patients. This has made out team one of Chicago's leaders in advanced eye care treatment.

With summer upon us, we though it would be best to look at an eye condition associated with people in the great outdoors. Let's consider the basics of pterygium.

About Pterygium

Also known as surfer's eye, pterygium is a type of noncancerous legion that involves the growth of pink tissue on the whites of the eyes. In the vat majority of cases, the tissue tends to start growing in the part of the eye closest to the nose and then proceeds outward.

If pterygium goes untreated, the tissue can potentially grow over the pupil and have an adverse effect on a person's vision. In some cases, patients may suffer from blurry vision or astigmatism as a result of the tissue growth.

What Causes Pterygium?

While an exact cause has yet to be determined, medical experts have found a few common traits in people who experience pterygium:

  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Multiple irritants in the air (dust, pollen, etc.)

In addition, the following factors have been noted in studies and data:

  • Pterygium is more common in men than women
  • Pterygium occurs most often in people living along the equator
  • Pterygium is common in people between the ages of 20 and 40

Pinguecula and Pterygium: Considering the Link

Another common factor that's been noted is pinguecula. Pinguecula is a noncancerous condition with similar causes and risk factors as pterygium. Pinguecula refers to a small yellow patch or yellowish bump located on the conjunctiva, which is the thin mucous membrame that covers the front of the eye and lines the inner portion of the eyelids.

Signs and Symptoms of Pterygium

The most common signs and symptoms of pterygium are as follows:

  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Gritty sensation in the eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Blurring of vision
  • Sensation of something in the eye

Treatment Options for Pterygium

When symptoms of pterygium are mild and the tissue has not impacted vision quality, major treatments may not be necessary. The use of lubricating and prescription medicated eye drops may help keep symptoms under control.

When surgery is necessary, the most common procedure is a conjunctival or amniotic graft. This will involve the removal of the pterygium and transplantation of a patient's own conjunctiva to fill missing necessary tissue. (In an amniotic graft procedure, medically preserved placenta is used to replace the tissue in question.)

Though surgery is not always recommended or necessary, it's been shown to be effective in preventing recurrence of lesion growth. During a consultation at our practice, we can go over the risks and benefits of surgical treatment in more detail.

Prevention of Pterygium

Since pterygium is closely associated with exposure to ultraviolet light, the best option for prevention is eye protection. When outdoors, be sure to wear sunglasses, preferably with some sort of UV protection. Wearing a hat with a brim is also recommended to help shade the eyes from direct sunlight.

The use of eye protection is especially important if you are active and outdoorsy. It's called surfer's eye for a reason, though it can also affect hikers, runners, and so forth.

Schedule a Consultation at Our Chicago Eye Care Center

To learn more about treating various eye conditions and vision problems and seeing the world better, be sure to contact our team of vision correction specialists today. The specialist of Primary Eye Care Associates are here to help you see clearly again.

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