The primary cause of pterygium, a growth of scar tissue and blood vessels on the surface of the eye, is cumulative UV radiation, typically from sun exposure. Dry, windy, dusty conditions can also contribute. Like skin made winkled and leathery by sun damage, the conjunctiva responds to UV damage by becoming rough and thick. The thickened and uneven surface causes irritation and ultimately, impaired sight. Left untreated, pterygium can rob you of your vision.
Because UV damage is the culprit behind most cases of pterygium, the best way to prevent the condition is to adequately protect your eyes from sun damage. Wide-brimmed hats and visors can help shade the eyes but sunglasses are even more crucial.
Many people mistakenly think that the higher the price tag or darker the lens, the more protection a pair of sunglasses provides. This isn't the case! In fact, neither price nor lens color guarantees adequate UV protection. Before you buy a pair of sunglasses, make sure the label indicates that they offer "100% UV Protection" or "UV 400". Oversized and wrap styles provide better protection than smaller frames.
Make sure you wear your sunglasses at all times - even in the winter and even in the shade. UV rays can bounce off of surfaces so even if you're not directly in the sun, your eyes can still be damaged. Water, snow, and sand all reflect UV rays so no matter what your environment or climate, it's important to wear your sunglasses or UV-proof goggles. If you are on the water, make sure to wear polarized sunglasses.
Click here to read Pterygium Removal Surgery: What to Expect.
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