How To Prevent Surfer’s Eye

Summer days are always something to celebrate. They make us feel great as they give us a chance to enjoy all those outdoor activities we have been postponing since the cold season set in.

Maybe you heard about this kickass surfing spot and you want to try it out. Perhaps you have been eyeing paddleboarding at the Pacific. How about that breathtaking kayak adventure you missed last summer?

Now you have packed up your surfboard travel bags, a pair of board shorts and a wet suit! There must be a sunscreen somewhere in those bags too, to protect your body from sunburns. But have you packed something to protect your eyes?

Studies show that exposing your eyes to direct UV radiation, wind, sand, dust, glare, and seawater can cause both short-term and long-term harm to your peepers. One common condition caused by a lack of eye protection is the surfer’s eye.

Trust us, the last thing you need is a wing-like membrane hanging around your eyeball when coming back from your surfing trip. That’s why we have prepared this valuable information on how to prevent surfer’s eye to help you prevent this not-so-attractive condition and have an outstanding surfing experience.

But What’s Surfer’s Eye?

Surfer’s eye or pterygium is a pink, fleshy growth that forms on the conjunctiva due to excessive exposure to UV light and irritants like wind, sand, and dust. This growth can appear in one eye and sometimes in both.

Though it usually looks scary, the surfer’s eye is a less serious condition than cancer. However, in severe cases, it could cover your eyeball and trigger vision problems.

Does It Only Affect Surfers?

Absolutely not! As long as you are taking part in activities that expose your eyes to UV light, without eye protection, then you are at risk of developing a surfer’s eye.

Surfers, however, are at a greater risk of pterygium because first, they spend more time outdoors than the average person does, and second their favorite surfing companions – shiny sails, oceans, and sand –reflect a huge amount of sun rays at them increasing their UV exposure even further. Still wondering why this condition is nicknamed “surfer’s eye”? Read again!

What Are The Signs And Symptoms?

Sometimes, you don’t realize something is happening underneath your eyelid. The growth just pops up! However, when there are symptoms, the eye may:

  • Appear persistently red
  • Itch and dry up
  • Burn
  • Get blurred
  • Feel like there is some foreign object in it

Surfer’s eye should be treated before it extends to the cornea area because if it does, it could change the shape of the pupil and cause unclear vision.

So, How Do You Prevent Surfer’s Eye?


Prevention is better than cure and unlike many eye conditions, a pterygium can be avoided. Here are a few proven tips on how to prevent surfer’s eye:

1. Wear Sunglasses

Whether you are scuba diving, skimboarding, or just having a calm yoga moment on a paddleboard, make sure to wear sunglasses. Invest in sunglasses designed to provide UV light protection. Those cheap ones from a beachside store or your convenient pharmacy will not give you the shield you need. Sure, they will make you pull that cool summer look but, trust us, they just won’t get the job done!

Wraparound styles will provide the best protection against wind, sand, and other irritants that may harm your eyes. To reduce glare get a nice pair of polarized lenses. A brimmed hat would also be useful in blocking stray UV rays.

2. Get Those Shades

Protecting your eyes when you surf can go a long way in preventing surfer’s eye. Look for premium surfing goggles to shield you from sand particles if you are hit by a wave. Most shades come in the form of a diving mask but if you don’t feel like doing a mask, then you can go for the more cooler ones that resemble sunglasses.

Go for goggle models with tight straps to ensure that they stay in place and your face remains protected in all conditions.  Even when you are thrashed by strong water currents and the shades get ripped off, the straps can get them to float on water so that you can easily locate them.

3. Clean Your Eyes And Face With Lukewarm Water After A Surf

Yes, we insist – lukewarm water! Not too cold and not too hot. Using water that is too cold will only dry out your eyes and block your face pores while excessive hot water can burn your face and cause eye redness.

Use warm water to wash your face off any substance that can cause inflammation to your eye. This will keep the eyelid clean and your cornea healthy.

4. Keep Your Indoors Air Humid And Healthy

When is the last time you had a container of uncovered water in your office or living room? Leaving a few containers of water open while heating or cooling your indoor air is important as this increases the humidity of your room remarkably.

Maintaining a moist inside air keeps your room out of dust particles that may find their way into your eyes and potentially put you at risk of developing surfer’s eye.

5. Moisturize Your Eyes Regularly

Just like any other part of your body, your eyes need to be moisturized. If you are spending most of your time water sporting or doing other outdoor activities, you need to invest in moisturizing eye mists, and eye drops. These are your best buddies when it comes to dampening the dust particles that might have sneaked into your eyes, balancing the PH value of your eyes, and, in turn, preventing pterygium.

How Is Surfer’s Eye Treated?

Now, we already know how to prevent surfer’s eye, but what if you already have this benign condition, how can you treat it? Here are the steps to follow to get rid of pterygium:

1. See An Ophthalmologist

If you are experiencing any symptoms related to surfer’s eye, visit an ophthalmologist or have your doctor refer you to one. This medical professional will ask you about your symptoms and examine your eye keenly using a piece of special equipment to reaffirm the diagnosis.

2. Use Topical Lubrication Drops

Depending on the seriousness of your condition, the eye specialist can prescribe non-steroid eye drops or artificial tears. These minimize eye dryness and lessen other symptoms.

3. Use Steroid Eye Drops

Under severe symptoms, steroid drops may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms and reduce inflammation. These are only used for a short period. Prolonged use of steroid drops can be harmful to your eyes as they can escalate your risk of developing other eye diseases.

4. Have Surgery

So you have tried both non-steroid and steroid eye drops but that growth doesn’t seem to bulge! It’s time to face the surgeon.

Your ophthalmologist will surgically remove the unwanted growing tissue from your eye to help you see correctly. However, it is worth noting that surgery will only be required if the growth threatens your ability to see or completely blocks your sight. The whole procedure usually takes less than 60 minutes.

5. Ask Your Doctor About Anti-Metabolites

Like any other surgery, removing pterygium growth with THE knife can result in complications. There can be a comeback of a more hostile tissue, you can have cuts and scars on your eyeball, or even develop blurry vision due to uneven pupils.

In most cases, the ophthalmologist will use a surgical method that prevents future abnormal growth into the cut. The most commonly used techniques include the use of anti-metabolites and placement of a protective membrane. Anti-metabolites inhibit or slow down the blooming of surfer’s eye cells that may remain after surgery. The protective layer placed on the cut discourages the development of abnormal tissue.

Once you have had the surgery, you must wear an eye patch. This will keep your eye protected and allow effective and proper healing of the cut.

Avoid dusty and dry environments for at least 7 days after the operation. If you are going surfing, wear a pair of wraparound frame sunglasses. Take extreme care for your peeper for the next 12 months, as this is the period within which most growths return.

Globo Surf Overview

Eye protection should be a full-time job for surfers or anyone going for outside sports. Of course, the eye protection gear may seem too expensive to buy but packing it with your skimboarding gear or windsurfing equipment during your next surfing trip can save you a lot of eye problems in the future.

Eye conditions can be a pain in the neck as it’s not easy to hide them. And surfer’s eye is one of these is no exception. If not treated it can lead to severe eye damage and even loss of vision.

The good news is that it can be avoided. We want you to be safe than sorry and with the above guide on how to prevent surfer’s eye, we are confident that you will be able to take the necessary measures to prevent this not-so-pleasant condition.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!