It seems that there MIGHT be hope for the millions of surfers, fishermen, divers, beach lovers, and (even more numerous and important) the countless islanders who make their living from the ocean but live uncomfortably close to the equator. It seems that there MIGHT be a nonsurgical treatment for pterygia coming down the pipeline. If you suffer from pterygia in your eyes, then you will understand how exciting this news is. You also know why I keep repeating “might.” Treatment thus far has been ineffective and barbaric and progress towards any said treatment has been seemingly non-existent.

Here is the deal so far: According to the journal article “New non-surgical treatment for common, vexing eye condition: repurposing of anti-anginal drug for treating eye disorders,” the medicine Dipyridamole which has been around for some 55 years has shown itself effective in both diminishing the severity of a pterygium and maybe actually shrinking the tissue itself. Dipyridamole is traditionally used to treat angina and thrombosis but has now been re-purposed for possible treatment of pterygia.

The case study written by Beth H. Carlocka, Carol A. Bienstockb, and Moshe Rogosnitzkyb describes the treatment of a 35 year old woman with a pterygium measuring 1.5 millimeters in length from the nasal area. With treatment of Dipyridamol in eye drop form, the growth shrunk to 1 millimeter and appeared clear and unnoticeable. Now, this may not sound like a “cure” but for a disease that seems to have had almost no progress toward any real treatment beyond steroids and very painful surgery, this is huge.

If you are wondering why this disease is worth discussing on a surfing website, you need to know that pterygia are thick, red, sometimes painful growths on the surface of the eyeball that are caused by extended exposure to sun, wind, sand, and saltwater. I think you get the connection. If you spend time within the surf world, you will begin to notice that blazing red eyes are the norm, especially with older surfers. You probably assumed other reasons in some cases and then were taken aback by others in which eyes looked infected or injured. The pain and discomfort are major factors, but the psychological effects are sometimes even worse. Genetics plays a big part in their development, but anyone who is a sun child is at risk. The biggest problem is that even after the painful surgery, the re-occurrence rate is very high. In all my experiences with my own eyes and with those of my friends, it’s 100%. Those odds are terrible.

So this breakthrough is encouraging.

When will this medicine be available? While most drugs can take a decade or two to get to the market, this one has been around for 55 years already, so sources are claiming as little as 2 years is possible. This is good news for us who are already dealing with the scourge but great news for the young ones who will be getting the disease in the coming years as (I interpret the research) the less progressive the case, the better.   
 The drug is also looking promising for general dry eye as well for its anti-inflammatory qualities. According to the MedInsight® Research Institute, “Clinical trials are now being planned for pterygia, pingueculae, and other common eye disorders and their complications such as dry eye and inflammation.”

In the meantime, you need to keep those eyes safe. Keep your sunglasses on, keep those eyes hydrated, and keep your fingers crossed.