Surfer's Eye Problems0 comments | by Tony DiMaggio
Surfing is a great sport and it is somewhat safe too. Sure we've all been hit in the head with the board a time to two and it is true that I lost an eye to the sport, but under normal conditions practiced surfers are rarely injured. Yet almost all mature surfers have permanently damaged eyes. The cumulative effects from a lifetime of wind, spray and ultra-violet radiation cause pterygium and cataracts. These conditions are debilitating, extremely common and wholly avoidable.
Pterygiums - "Surfer's Eye"
Pterygium is so common among surfers that it is commonly referred to as Surfer's Eye. Some of your older surfer friends probably have it. It manifests itself as a clear, white, or pinkish membrane that grows over the inside corner of one or both eyes. This membrane starts small, just in the corner of the eye and spreads out in triangular shape from there.
A Pterygium will not cause immediate blindness. When the condition is in its beginning stages the growth is mildly irritating, no more. It feels dry and itchy; you will probably want to use eye drops to alleviate the itch. As the pterygium grows it can come to cover the pupil and greatly disturb vision. At this point surgery will becomes necessary.
Closeup of a pterygium, otherwise known as Surfer's Eye
Pterygium surgery consists of literally cutting and scraping the growth off the eyeball. The cost is at least $2,000 in the US, but can be treated for free on the NHS (UK residents). Although the surgery becomes necessary, it has a serious drawback. After surgery pterygiums typically grow back faster and stronger than before. Here's what pterygium surgery involves.
The best way to avoid pterygiums is to keep your eyes "comfortable". When your eyes are dry use lubricating eye drops. Most importantly, keep your eyes protected from the sun, wind and spray. When outside wear full coverage sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection. When you are surfing you should wear surf sunglasses.
Cataracts are also very common among surfers. Cataracts are a permanent clouding of the lens that focuses light onto your retina. As the lens becomes cloudy vision becomes progressively worse. If left untreated cataracts can lead to blindness; cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.
Closeup of an eye with cataracts
Cataract surgery is an amazing product of modern day medicine. Doctors cut into the eyeball, remove the clouded natural lens and replace it with a new synthetic lens. The surgery costs a minimum of $3,200 per eye (free on the NHS for UK residents) and recovery time is one to four weeks. Here's what cataract surgery involves.
The main causal agent for cataracts is long-term exposure to UV radiation. Anyone who spends lots of time staring into the blinding sun looking for waves is in great danger of cataracts.
Keeping Your Eyes Healthy
While a life time spent surfing can lead to pterygium and cataracts, it does not have to.
- use lubricating eye drops when your eyes are feeling itchy or dry
- keep your eyes protected from the sun, wind and spray
- wear surf sunglasses to protect yourself from the cumulative damage otherwise accrued from the most fun hours of your life
About the Author
At the age of 17 Tony lost his left eye in a surfing accident. Since then he has dedicated himself to helping surfers protect their eyes while in the water. Learn more about Tony, surfer's eye health and surf sunglasses at www.wearsurfglasses.com
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