What is eye melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of malignant cancer that develops in the melanin-producing cells all over the human body. Melanin-producing cells are known for the production of melanin, a pigment that gives our skin its color. Eye melanomas usually develops in parts of the eye that are not visible to us, therefore, it is much more difficult to diagnose. Moreover, there are not many signs or symptoms that can allow for the detection of this cancer.
Eye melanomas mostly occur in the cells of the uvea — the vascular layer of the eye — in the sclera, and in the thin layer of tissue located on the inner back wall of the eyeball. However, eye melanomas can occur almost in any part of the eye including iris, ciliary body, choroid layer, and conjunctiva.
What causes eye melanoma?
The real cause for eye melanoma has not yet been discovered. It is believed that melanomas occur due to errors in the DNA of the healthy eye cells. These DNA errors tell the healthy cells to develop and multiply out of control, eventually resulting in the development of eye melanoma.
Risk factors for eye melanoma include:
- Light eye color – individuals with blue or green eyes are at a greater risk for developing eye melanoma
- Age – the risk of eye melanoma increases as you get older
- Exposure to UV light – tanning beds and light from the sun increases the risk of eye melanoma
- Certain inherited skin disorders – skin disorders like dysplastic nevus syndrome increases the risk of eye melanoma.
Signs and symptoms of eye melanoma
As mentioned before, eye melanoma is a type of cancer that does not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages.
When the signs and symptoms become more prominent they include:
- A sensation of flashing lights
- Dark spots
- A change in the shape of the pupil
- Blurry vision in the affected eye
- Poor vision in the affected eye
- Loss of peripheral vision
How is eye melanoma diagnosed?
Some of the examinations used for diagnosing eye melanoma include:
- Eye examination
- Eye ultrasound
- Angiogram of the blood vessels around the tumor
- Biopsy of the eye
How is eye melanoma treated?
The treatment of eye melanoma will depend on a couple of factors, like your overall health, the location of the melanoma inside of the eye, and the size of the tumor mass.
Small melanoma of the eye may not require treatment. Instead, your doctor may suggest a waiting period, during which, any changes in the size and shape of the tumor accompanied by the appearance of signs and symptoms will be monitored.
If melanoma continues to grow, causes signs and symptoms and sometimes even gets complicated, treatment is necessary. Surgical treatment includes the total removal of the eye or just the affected part of the eye. Radiotherapy is another treatment option, usually used for small to medium size melanomas.