Everything You Need To Know About Surfer's Eye

The second edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans mentions, in brevity, the options for physical activity in the great outdoors, like running or biking (via the United States Department of Health and Human Services). But it does not dive deep into the unique benefits of staying active in a natural environment. Luckily, a 2013 study published in the journal of Extreme Physiology and Medicine concluded that the use of natural environments, or green spaces, for exercise may enable a laundry list of added benefits, like improving your mood and self-esteem. It also can reframe the exercise experience in a more positive light, making it more enjoyable, which may enable you to push harder and reach a higher level of intensity without noticeable effort. 

Keep in mind, however, there's more to the outdoors than green spaces. Now, experts have realized and studied the powers of exercise and time spent in blue spaces, like the beach or lake, where you're exposed to a natural body of water (per WebMD). A 2021 study published in Nature's journal Scientific Reports found an interesting relationship: childhood exposure to blue spaces may relate to better psychological well-being as an adult. But blue spaces can also cause harm. Here's everything you need to know about a condition that develops in people who spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in blue spaces.

Pterygium: causes, symptoms, and treatment

Surfer's eye, or pterygium, is a benign wedge-shaped growth that develops on the conjunctiva tissue of the eye, explains WebMD. The growth typically starts closer to the nose side of the eye and spreads towards the center. Pterygium may be caused by regular exposure to elements, like sunny or windy environments. It is called surfer's eye because surfers have high rates of the condition due to a multiplicity of factors, like exposure to the sun, sand, wind, and the reflection of UV light of the ocean water (via Atlantic Eye Institute). 

The symptoms of surfer's eye range from redness, itchiness, and irritation to blurred vision (per Healthline). In severe cases, pterygium can cause scarring and result in loss of vision. Treatment for mild pterygium ranges from ointments to eye drops, while surgery may be required in more severe cases. However, one brave big-wave surfer found a unique, if not glaringly brash way to treat his surfer's eye. As reported in a 2014 case study published in the British Medical Journal, while a surfer dropped in on a large wave he momentarily leaned over his toe-rail edge of the surfboard, submerging his face in the moving face of the wave. Amazingly, he maintained his balance and continued the ride. The resulting face-to-face brush up with the moving wave removed his pterygium, and even though the area was inflamed for a few days, the surf rider recovered "without medical intervention."