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What Is A Pterygium?

If you live in a sunny state and spend a lot of time outside, you may have heard of something called a pterygium. It’s also known as surfer’s eye.

A pterygium is a fleshy growth on the surface of the eye. While it may look intimidating, the growth itself is actually mostly harmless.

Although it is noncancerous, it is unpleasant to look at, and if it becomes large enough, it can impede vision.

How a pterygium forms is why it got its nickname in the first place. Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause harm to your body, especially your eyes.

People who spend all day out in the sun, such as surfers, are at a higher risk for developing vision problems from UV rays. This includes developing a pterygium.

A pterygium starts as a small, almost imperceivable growth on the inside corner of your eye. As it grows, it becomes more obvious, and may appear as though skin is growing into your iris.

As it worsens, it can cause other symptoms like redness, swelling, a gritty feeling in the eye, and even mild burning. Needless to say, most people would rather not get one in the first place.

Keep reading to learn more about pterygium and how to prevent them!

Pterygium Prevention

The best way to treat a problem is to avoid it altogether. Preventing pterygia from forming is as simple as limiting your time outdoors. If you have to be outdoors, it’s important to use proper protecton from the sun.

Sunglasses are the best place to start, as they are the most common way to protect your eyes. You need to be careful, as not all sunglasses are the same when it comes to safety.

Most sunglasses come with a sticker that says “100% UV protected” or “100% UV and UVB protected”. Either of these are fine, but always check for them.

Shades that do not offer protection from the sun are worse than not wearing sunglasses at all. Darkened lenses without UV protection will still cause your pupils to dilate to allow more light in. This is a problem if harmful rays aren’t filtered out.

You should also consider wearing a brimmed hat to provide more protection. Shading your eyes from the sun is an easy way to do this.

Keep your eyes hydrated with artificial tears if your eyes feel dry. Having eyes that are well-hydrated helps to protect your eyes from dirt or dust.

Pterygium Treatment

Prevention doesn’t always work. Treating pterygium often involves surgery.

If a pterygium does not impede your vision, most doctors will recommend using eye drops to treat the discomfort and leave it alone. If it becomes too large, the skin will be removed and replaced with skin grafted from the top of your eye.

This is hidden beneath your eyelid. Pterygia have a habit of growing back. Grafting new healthy skin in their place helps to reduce the rate of recurrence.

To learn more about eye safety and to get your eyes checked, book an appointment at Washington Eye in Chevy Chase, Maryland!


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