Melanoma is a form of cancer that builds up in the cells that create melanin. Giving the skin its color, melanin is a pigment and melanin producing cells can also be found in the eyes. Eye melanoma also known as ocular melanoma is developed from these melanin producing cells. Although it is the most common form of eye cancer in adults, eye melanoma is rare.
Eye melanoma usually begins in the center of the three layers of the eye. Because eye melanoma forms in the area of the eye you can’t see when looking in a mirror, they can be tricky to diagnose. In addition, eye melanoma normally doesn’t cause early indications or symptoms and are mostly diagnosed during a regular eye test. Eye melanoma can also form on the conjunctiva, in the socket that keeps the eyeball in place and on the eyelids, though these types of eye melanoma are very rare.
Ocular melanoma is a rare type of cancer and the causes are unknown. It’s known that exposure to ultraviolet rays, from the sun and sun beds, increases the risk of developing skin melanoma. People who get skin burns easily are at the most risk. Similarly, individuals with fair skin, fair or red hair, and blue eyes are known to be in danger of developing skin melanoma the most. However, no link between the exposure to UV rays and the development of ocular melanoma has yet been identified.
Ocular melanoma may be more widespread in people who have a typical mole syndrome. People with this condition often have over 100 moles all over their body, some of which are strange in size and shape, and have a larger risk of inducing skin melanoma.
Factors that may include your risk of getting melanoma:
• Long exposure to sunlight (natural or artificial)
• Having colored eyes
• Old age
• Caucasian descent
• Abnormal moles caused by inherited skin conditions.
• Having abnormal skin pigmentation on the eyelids
• Increased pigmentation on the front part of the uvea
• Hazy vision: In the beginning blurry vision may be mistaken for weakening of the eyesight. However, people at a high risk of eye cancer should contact an ophthalmologist in case of blurry vision.
• Flashes in visual fields: Patients may see floaters (points, dark spots, lines) in their visual field. Although these symptoms are present in a lot of eye diseases, they are also indicative of eye cancers, especially in high risk individuals.
• Tunnel Vision: The patient loses their vision partially, and can still see objects as if they were watching it through a tunnel. This is just the beginning, tunnel vision is followed by complete blindness.
• Swelling of the eye.
• The eye with the melanoma may look different.
• A mole or spot over the iris may change shape and/or size.