Monday, January 21, 2019

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

Dr. Jennifer Michelson, M.D.

Does a Pterygium or "Surfer's Eye" Increase Melanoma Risk?  
A pterygium (pronounced “tuh-RIJ-ee-uhm”) is an elevated, degenerated, wedged-shaped bump of tissue on your eyeball that starts on the conjunctiva or white part of your eye-most often near your nose and can slowly grow and extend to the cornea. A pterygium is commonly referred to as "surfer's eye" due to excessive exposure to bright sunlight for extended periods of time.  Harmful UV radiation reflected from surface of ocean water increases the risk of developing a pterygium. 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 the 30 to 50 year age range 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.  If a pterygium grows and extends onto the cornea, irregular astigmatism and blurred vision may result requiring a surgical correction.

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 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 and schedule and eye exam at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center, P.C. in Birmingham at 205-930-0930, visit Alabama Eye & Cataract Center, Google+ or

Michelson Laser Vision, Inc. and Alabama Eye & Cataract Center, P.C. are leading eye care centers in Birmingham located at UAB-Highlands, 1201 11th Avenue S, Suite 501, Birmingham, Alabama 35205 and staffed by UAB Medicine eye doctors and eye specialists.