Important facts about Eye Melanoma

Eye melanoma, which is also known as ocular melanoma, develops within the cells that produce melanin within the eyes. The problem is that the majority of eye melanoma cases develop in areas that you cannot see when you are looking at your eyes in the mirror. This makes the condition hard to detect.

Quick Facts About Eye Melanoma

  • The formation of these types of tumors is rare.
  • The exact cause of eye melanoma is not known, and it also isn't known if exposure to UV rays from tanning beds or the sun will increase the risk for this disease.
  • Individuals who have fair skin, skin that burns easily, fair hair, red hair, and blue eyes are at the highest risk of developing eye melanoma.
  • This type of cancer is more common in individuals who also have atypical mole syndrome, also known as dysplastic naevus syndrome.
  • Roughly 2,500 people are diagnosed with eye melanoma each year.
  • About half of the patients who have eye melanoma will suffer from metastases 10-15 years following diagnosis. A small number of people will also have metastases 20-25 years following initial diagnosis.

What Are the Symptoms of Eye Melanoma?

Unfortunately, when the disease is in its early stages, eye melanoma does not cause symptoms. This results in more delays in proper diagnosis.

When symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Any change in the way your pupil is shaped
  • Blurry or poor vision in one of your eyes
  • A loss of your peripheral vision
  • Floaters in your vision
  • Having a sensation of lights flashing in your vision
  • A dark spot that is growing in size on your iris

What Treatments Are Available?

In the case of a small melanoma, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting to see if it grows. However, if your doctor recommends treatment, it will likely include surgery, radiation, laser treatments, and/or cold treatments.

Can You Prevent Eye Melanoma?

According to the American Cancer Society, it is not possible to prevent eye melanoma because experts are not yet sure what exactly causes the condition in the first place.

Nevertheless, because there is a known link between exposure to sunlight and melanoma of the skin, you can try to reduce your risk of eye melanoma by limiting any exposure to sunlight that is intense.

Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that provide protection against UV rays. A great choice is a pair of wrap-around glasses that will absorb 100% of UVA and UVB rays. You can also wear a hat when you go outside so that your eyes can be further protected from the sun's harsh rays.

Other ways to reduce your risk for eye melanoma, and any other type of cancer, include eating right, exercising regularly, and reducing the level of stress that you experience in your everyday life.

Eye melanoma is a serious condition, and researchers are still learning more about it. Have your eyes examined annually to ensure a prompt diagnosis in case it does develop.