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Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye) Treatment Options | MyVision.org

Most often, pterygium is monitored by an eye doctor. It may be treated with artificial tears or over-the-counter medications. In some cases, medications may be prescribed.

Lifestyle changes are recommended, such as wearing sunglasses with UV protection, avoiding dusty and windy environments, and quitting smoking.

In severe cases, surgery may be recommended. However, it’s a last resort since regrowth is common. 

What Is Pterygium?

A pterygium, commonly referred to as surfer’s eye, is a growth that can occur on the conjunctive or mucous membrane covering the white part of the eye. 

These growths commonly affect people who live in sunny, windy, or dusty climates and regions. Surfers may be in these conditions often, hence the moniker, but it can affect people from all walks of life. 

Surfer’s Eye Risk Factors

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you are likely more susceptible to developing pterygium. Chronic sun exposure is the major risk factor. 

Additional risk factors include being male and older, as risk increases with age.

Pterygium Treatment Options

Treatment options for pterygium will be determined by the severity of the condition. Minor cases can likely be treated and managed with over-the-counter artificial tears, ointments, and other remedies that are largely available at grocery stores and pharmacies.

If you have a more severe case of surfer’s eye, your eye doctor will likely recommend additional treatments, such as medications or potentially even surgery. 

Treatment for Minor Cases

If your pterygium isn’t affecting your daily life, certain lifestyle changes can usually alleviate symptoms and discomfort.

An experienced eye care professional may be able to recommend specific over-the-counter eye ointments or lubricating drops (artificial tears). Simply lubricating the eye can relieve much of the irritation associated with pterygium. Decongestant drops may also help in some cases. 

Certain kinds of eye drops, such as corticosteroids, may reduce inflammation, which can contribute to the growth and spread of pterygium. Eye drops will also treat dry eyes, which can contribute to pterygium.

If your condition is more advanced than a minor case, your doctor may prescribe eye drops. 

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Symptoms

Lifestyle changes can often manage or relieve pterygium symptoms. Follow these steps:

  • Protect your eyes with polarized glasses that provide 100% UV protection. This will help ensure the condition does worsen. 
  • Limit exposure to UV rays, dusty conditions, and excessive wind.
  • Quit smoking. 
  • Use artificial tears as needed.

Surgery for Severe Cases

If your pterygium is affecting your day-to-day life and causing a considerable amount of discomfort, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the growth. 

Pterygium surgery is usually a straightforward outpatient procedure that is done with local anesthetic. Surgery comes with certain risks, and there is a chance that the growth could recur. In cases of recurrence, the TissueTuck surgical technique may be recommended. 

After surgery, you will have to wear a protective covering on your eye. Follow the postoperative instructions carefully to safeguard the healing process. 

When Is Surgery Recommended?

Pterygium surgery is generally pursued only as a last measure. An eye doctor will try less invasive courses of treatment first. If eye drops and ointments do not relieve symptoms, surgery is generally the next course of action.

Surgery may be recommended if the pterygium has grown so large that it starts to affect vision or if pterygium starts to affect the cornea. In some cases, pterygium can pull on the cornea or even cause it to curve, which can lead to astigmatism. 

Cosmetic pterygium surgery is also an option if the growth has become unsightly and affects self-esteem. 

Ways to Prevent Pterygium From Recurring

Recurrence rates vary widely, ranging from as low as 2.6% to as high as 37.5%. While there is no surefire way to prevent recurrence, there are certain steps you can take to discourage regrowth.

  • Wear sunglasses that provide complete UV protection every time you are outdoors. 
  • Wear hats with wide brims while outdoors.
  • Use artificial tears to minimize dry eyes and irritation.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid windy or dusty areas and conditions whenever possible.

When to Consult an Eye Doctor

If you notice any growth on your eye, see an eye doctor. You need a professional to accurately diagnose the issue and recommend appropriate treatment. 

In most cases, your eye doctor will recommend you simply monitor pterygium. If it’s causing irritation, dryness, or discomfort, they may recommend artificial tears or prescription drops. If it is so severe that it is impacting vision, surgery may be appropriate. 

Make sure you are under the care of an eye doctor and seeing them on a regular schedule. They will monitor any progression of surfer’s eye and ensure it doesn’t impact your day-to-day life.

References

Pterygium. (February 2023). StatPearls

Pterygium in Indonesia: prevalence, severity and risk factors. (December 2022). British Journal of Ophthalmology. 

Outcomes of the TissueTuck Surgical Technique for Recurrent Pterygium. (February 2023). The Journal of Cornea and External Disease

Evaluating the Efficacy and Safety of Different Pterygium Surgeries: A Review of the Literature. (September 2022). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Cosmetic Pterygium Surgery: Techniques and Long-Term Outcomes. (November 2022). Clinical Ophthalmology. 

Management of Pterygium. (November/December 2010). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Risk Factors for Pterygium Recurrence after Primary Excision. (April 2011). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Recurrent Pterygium: A Review. (January 2022). Journal of Current Ophthalmology

Characteristics and Recurrence of Pterygium: A Single Center Study With a Long Follow-Up. (June 2021). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

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