‘Surfer’s Eye’ &
How to Avoid It

UV rays from sunlight reflected off your nose can damage the white of your eye (the conjunctiva) near the nose. A wedge-shaped growth of pink fleshy tissue on the conjunctiva, although benign or non-cancerous, is a common sign of excessive sun exposure.  

Known as a pterygium (pronounced ter-idge-ee-um), the inflamed and irritated tissue can grow slowly or remain stable, although in some instances pterygiums can spread towards the pupil and may require surgery to prevent permanent vision damage.

Pterygiums may also grow on the outer corner of the eye, or on both sides of the eye at the same time. One or both eyes may be affected.

Surgery is usually performed under local anaesthetic. It is recommended to have surgery before the pterygium progresses to the point where it interferes with your vision. Despite a successful surgery, a pterygium may return.

About 1 in every 100 Australians will have pterygiums. You can reduce the risk of developing a pterygium by:

  • Avoiding dry and dusty environments
  • Regularly using lubricant eye drops
  • Protecting your eyes from further sun damage by wearing sunglasses and a hat outdoors
  • Avoiding long periods in bright sunlight, especially when you are on water, which reflects the sun’s harmful UV rays.

If you do notice any changes to any areas in and around the eye, please see your GP or Optometrist for an assessment.


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