Surfer’s Eye -Don’t Let Ptertyiums Happen To You
February 16, 2012

While it may appear that most surfers are self-prescribing themselves with glaucoma medicine, many watermen suffer from what we call “Surfer’s Eye”.  Doctors call this red tissue that creeps across the whites of people’s eyes a “Ptertyium” and while non-cancerous,  it causes major threats to your vision and other complications.

Causes: Sustained exposure to UV rays without eye protection is the primary cause of an overgrown conjunctiva. Surfers, skiers, fishermen and others in highly reflective environments have increased proneness to suffer from the symptoms of Surfer’s Eye. Combining other elements like wind, dryness and dust can accelerate the growth of a Ptertygium in a single day.

surfers eye

A friend of SWELL went wake-boarding on a dry, windy day without sunglasses, and woke up the next morning with a growth that would eventually require surgical removal.

Symptoms: Aside from cops and coworkers thinking that you get stoned all day, Surfer’s Eye causes chronic irritation and soreness of the eyes. Some  surfers describe the foreign feeling of that eye growth as similar to the discomfort of an old contact lens or grains of sand in the eye.

The serious threat to your vision comes when the growth progresses into the cornea of you eye, and the excess tissue start to impair your vision. Then comes the fun part…

Treatment: Ptertyium surgery isn’t your 20 minute lasik. Patients must endure hours of scalpels and razors shaving their eyes while wide awake.  The recovery is just as painful since doctors graft a different part of your eye and sew where they cut, creating two wounds.  Don’t expect to be surfing for weeks after this medievel torture.

Scared straight yet? Good, because nipping a Ptertyium the bud isn’t quite so easy. When the first signs of the excess tissue makes contact with your eyelid, it constantly creates friction and irritation causing a dry red state prone to infection. To prevent this, use artificial tears (not Visine)  to always keep your eyes well lubricated.


Your first line of defense should always be a good pair of polarized sunglasses. Most importantly polarized shades shield your eyes from ultra violet rays, wind and abrasive airborne particles. Thankfully sunglasses technology recently improved tremendously, creating  thin, light weight glass lenses that block 99.9% of glare and maintain superior clarity.