Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pterygia “Surfer’s Eye” & Melanoma Skin Cancer Risk


Does a Pterygium or "Surfer's Eye" Increase Melanoma Risk?

A pterygium (pronounced “tuh-RIJ-ee-uhm”) is an elevated, wedged-shaped bump of tissue on your eyeball that starts on the sclera or white of your eye-most often on the side near your nose and can extend to the cornea. Although a pterygium is commonly referred to as "surfer's eye" because being around bright sunlight for long periods of time-particularly the harmful UV reflected light from water such as the ocean-can increase your risk. But, there are other causes as well and you don't have to be a surfer or ever see the ocean to get a pterygium. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun appears to be the primary cause for the growth of pterygia, but exposure to dust and wind along with dry eye disease are very common causes. Pterygia usually develop in 30- to 50-year-olds, and are rarely are found in children. If you have a light skin complexion and light eyes you have a greater chance of getting a pterygium.

Recently, researchers reporting in the British Journal of Ophthalmology reported the results of a study that considered whether people who had pterygia were at greater risk of melanoma skin cancer. They felt that since pterygia seemed to me more common in light skinned, light eyed people who were exposed to a lot of sunlight, that maybe they had greater melanoma skin cancer risk. They found that having a pterygium indicates a significantly increased risk of developing a melanoma of the skin and that eye care providers who see patients with developing pterygia should advise these patients of this increased risk and recommend regular skin surveillance with a dermatologist. Further, we know that if a pterygium becomes inflamed and affects the cornea, excision- pterygium surgery-may be necessary to avoid vision changes from corneal distortion or even scarring.

If you or someone you know has a pterygium, please schedule an eye exam at Baltimore Washington Eye Center 800-495-3937, or visit Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Google+ or facebook.com/baltimorewashingtoneyecenter.

Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice with office locations at 200 Hospital Drive, Suite 600, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061, and 2391 Brandermill Blvd., Suite 200, Gambrills, Maryland 21061 serving the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.