Surfer’s Eye

Pterygium, otherwise known as “surfer’s eye” is a pink, fleshy non-cancerous tissue growth that occurs often on the side of your eyeball closest to your nose and grows towards your pupil. It grows on the conjunctiva, aka the clear tissue lining both your eyeball and eyelids.

Contrary to what you might think, this growth does not solely affect surfers but can happen to anyone exposed to UV light and irritants like wind or dust over a long period of time.

Symptoms of Pterygium

While sometimes there are no symptoms with pterygium, patients can experience:

  • Irritation, burning and redness
  • Eye feels gritty
  • Eye feels like there is something in it
  • Itching

At-Risk Groups

Men who live near the equator are shown to be more likely to get pterygium than others, but anyone who lives in a sunny location can be affected by it.

Prevention and Treatment Options


The best way to prevent pterygium is to wear eye protection such as sunglasses—wrap sunglasses tend to provide the best protection. Either way, choose shades that block 99%-100% of both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. A hat with a brim can also protect your eyes from UV light and artificial tears can be used to ensure your eyes stay moist while in dry climates.


An eye care professional can diagnose pterygium with a slit lamp (a special microscope). For mild cases, no treatment may be necessary or, if it causes temporary irritation or redness, the eye care professional may prescribe:

  • Over-the-counter eye ointments or wetting drops
  • Eyedrops that clear up redness and irritation
  • Prescription steroid eyedrops to ease redness, itching, swelling, and pain1

For more severe cases—aka if the pterygium interferes with vision or causes discomfort—the growth can be removed with an outpatient procedure.