Melanoma Cancer Of The Eye – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Health Desk- You also have melanin-producing cells in your eyes and can develop melanoma cancer. Eye melanoma is also called ocular melanoma. Treatment for eye melanoma usually causes some vision loss.

Melanoma of the eye is a cancer that occurs in different parts of the eye. Most ocular melanomas form in the part of the eye that you cannot see when looking in the mirror. This makes eye melanoma difficult to detect. Also, eye melanoma usually doesn’t cause early signs or symptoms.

Treatment is available for eye melanoma. Treatment for small melanomas of some eyes may not interfere with your vision. However, treatment for large melanomas of the eye usually causes some vision loss.

Melanoma Cancer Of The Eye - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Melanoma Cancer Of The Eye – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Causes of melanoma cancer of the eye-

Melanoma is a very aggressive type of cancer that can spread quickly. It is usually a type of skin cancer.

Melanoma of the eye can affect many parts of the eye, including:

  • Conjunctiva
  • Eyelid
  • Eye pupil
  • Orbit
  • Choroid
  • Ciliary body

The choroid layer is the most likely site of melanoma in the eye. It is the white of the eye and the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue behind the eye.

Cancer can only occur in the eyes. Or, it may spread (metastasize) to another place in the body, most commonly the liver. Melanoma can also start in the skin or other organs in the body and spread to the eyes.

Melanoma is the most common type of eye tumor in adults. Still, melanoma starting in the eye is rare.

Too much exposure to sunlight is a significant risk factor for melanoma. People who have fair skin and blue eyes are most commonly affected by ocular melanoma.

Symptoms of melanoma of the eye

Symptoms of eye melanoma may include any of the following:

  • Poor vision in one eye
  • Red, painful eye
  • Small defects on the iris or conjunctiva
  • Bulging eyes
  • Change in iris color
  • A growing dark spot on the iris
  • A sensation of flashing lights
  • A change in the size of the dark circle (pupil) in the center of your eye
  • Poor or blurred vision in one eye
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • In some cases, there may be no symptoms.

Exams and Tests for Melanoma of the Eye-

An eye exam with an ophthalmologist may discover a lump (tumor) in the eye.

In addition the following tests may be done:

  • Brain CT or MRI scan to look for spread (metastases) to the brain
  • Eye ultrasound
  • Skin biopsy if there is an affected area on the skin

Melanoma cancer treatment of the eye-

Small melanomas can be treated by:

  • Surgery
  • Laser
  • Radiation therapy (eg gamma knife, cyberknife, brachytherapy)
  • Surgery may be needed to remove the eye (enucleation).
  • Other treatments that may be used include:

Chemotherapy- if the cancer has spread beyond the eye

Immunotherapy- which uses drugs to help your immune system fight the melanoma

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing your experience with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

The outcome of melanoma cancer of the eye depends on the size of the cancer when it is diagnosed. Most people live at least 5 years from the time of diagnosis if the cancer has not spread outside the eye.

If the cancer has spread outside the eye, the chance of long-term survival is very low.

Complications from melanoma of the eye-

Complications that may develop due to melanoma of the eye include:

  • Distortion or loss of vision
  • Retinal detachment
  • Spread of tumor to other areas of the body

When to see a doctor?

Call for an appointment with your provider if you have symptoms of melanoma of the eye.

Eye melanoma prevention-

The most important way to prevent melanoma of the eye is to protect the eyes from sunlight, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense. Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet protection.

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