Even though traditionally, sailors, surfers, fishermen and other watersports?lovers made up the population of outdoors people to most commonly develop pterygiums, the fact is that anyone who spends enough time outside in the elements is susceptible. Here are some pterygium causes and treatments:
What is a Pterygium?
A pterygium is a small membrane that begins to grow over the corner of your eye, sort of like a scar, after repeated exposure to sun, wind, salt water and dust. The word actually means "wing" in Greek, since that's sort of what it looks like growing over your sclera, or the white part of your eye.
Don't worry, the growth is non-cancerous. It's made up of fibrous vascular tissues that grow along blood vessels.
Even though most studies have shown that the condition is actinic—meaning that it's for the most part due to sun-exposure—dust, salt spray, sun-reflection off the water and wind carrying other particles so miniscule you barely notice them flying into your eye.
Obviously, wearing sunglasses at all times and goggles when you're in the water would do the trick--but for some, like sea kayakers, surfers, donning shades isn't always possible.
According to ophthalmologist, Shawn Klein M.D., a corneal specialist, ocean goers can use moisturizing lubricants (like artificial tears) before and after outdoor activity to ease the irritation that causes further pterygium growth.
"So far, we don't know whether individuals are predisposed to pterygiums based on genetics or if exposure to sun and location is the only factor," he admits.
Now that we're patiently waiting for the first snowfall and it's not as depressing to take a little time off your summer sport, it's a perfect time to remove that pterygium.
According to Klein, having it removed involves a combination of applying medication to the area that stops the growth of the tissue, covering the area with a tissue graft and scraping off the pterygium.
And, to heal, eye surgeons used to employ very small stitches (the eye eventually absorbed them) which eventually provided for some uncomfortable irritation in their own right. Now surgeons have developed a new system, using a type of glue.