What is Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma ?

Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in melanin, which is a pigment that gives skin its color. Majority of people are not aware of the fact that cells producing melanin pigment are also present in eyes. In medical terms, melanoma of eye is commonly referred as ocular melanoma.

Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Causes of Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Till date the exact cause of melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma is not known. Doctors say that melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma occurs when some unexpected issue occurs in the DNA of healthy eye cells. This DNA error determines how cell grows and multiply abnormally, this way mutated live for long. These mutated cells get accumulated in the eyes, which ultimately causes melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma.

Symptoms of Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma does not exhibit significant signs or symptoms. There are some minor symptoms indicating the development of melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma:

  • Heavy sensitivity towards flash lights is a primary symptom of melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma.
  • Weak or blur vision in one or both eyes.
  • Poor peripheral vision.
  • Dark spots near iris.
  • Fluctuation in pupil size.

Tests to Diagnose Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Some of the tests, which are suggested by doctors for diagnosing melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma are as follows:

  • Primary eye examination to diagnose melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. Eye specialist first examines the outer side of the eyes such as the swollen blood vessels as it indicates presence of tumor. After this doctor examination, the inner side of the eye by using varies advance instruments. There are two methods, which are frequently used by doctors for performing the inner health of eye. The methods are ophthalmoscopy and slit-lamp biomicroscopy. In ophthalmoscopy, doctors use lenses and bright light for examining the eyes. On the contrary, in slit-lamp biomicroscopy doctors use microscope for producing intense light focusing interior of eye
  • Another way to diasgnose melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma is by taking ultrasound of eyes. This test is being performed by an apparatus known as transducer. It is a hand-held apparatus, which is used for generating high frequency sound which helps in producing image of the eyes. For performing this test, the apparatus is either placed on closed eye lid or in front of the eye.
  • Doubtful tissue sample exam of further testing. In some cases doctors suggest biopsy, this is a procedure where a suspicious tissue is taken out of the patient’s body for further testing of melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. A thin needle is interested in the eye for extracting sample tissue. This sample is then examined in laboratory for sometime to detect whether the sample contains melanoma cells or not.

To ensure whether the malignant cells have spread around other parts of the body or not, doctor prescribe some additional tests like Chest X-ray, Abdominal ultrasound, CT (Computerized tomography) scan, Blood tests and MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging).

Treatment for Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Treatment for melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma depends on the location and size of the tumor. If the size of the melanoma is too small and it is not growing, then doctors suggest to wait and observe the behavior of melanoma. If the melanoma is found to create complications then a treatment is undertaken.

Based on severity of melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma, any of the four treatment methods are advised by the doctor:

  • There are two types of surgery performed for treating melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. In one, a small area of affected tissues is removed. If small portion is removed from iris, then it is called iridectomy and if affected area is removed from choroid, then it is called as choroidectomy. However, if the size of the tumor increases considerably then doctor perform surgery for removing the eye completely from the patient body. This is an extreme step, which is taken only the condition becomes worse and no other alternative is available for treatment.
  • Laser treatment is also used to treat melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. In this treatment method, laser beam is used for destroying the abnormal growth of melanoma cell. Usually infrared laser is used for this purpose.
  • Another way to treat melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma is by radiation therapy. In this therapy, high energy radiations such as gamma rays or protons are used for destroying the malignant cells. This treatment is used for treating small or medium size tumor. Radiations are directly towards the affected area by placing radioactive plaque on the eye. Plaque is held in proper place by giving temporary stitches. After 5-6 days plaque is properly removed from the eye.

Life Expectancy of Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

With the varying types of medical techniques doctors use, the life expectancy has increased considerably. If detected in early stage doctors perform procedures that completely eliminate the cancer cells. In case the situation becomes worse, still doctors try their best to control the symptoms.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

There is no specific recovery period or healing time which is defined, as it depends on patient’s condition. If detected in early stage, then the patient can recover from melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma in few months, else it takes years to get rid of melanoma completely.

Prevention of Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Minimalize exposure to UV radiation to prevent melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. One should wear UV protective sunglasses when moving out in the sun. This is so because UV radiations emitted by sun can be very harmful, but wearing good sunglasses can protect eyes from the harmful radiations.

Eat healthy food to prevent melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. One should include nutritious food in their daily life. Food rich in Vitamin A are good for maintaining healthy eyes. Avoid junk food as it does not provide any nutrition.

Risk Factors for Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Some of the common risk factors associated with melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma are:

  • Persons’ race is a risk factor for melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. Research has revealed that white people are more prone to develop eye cancer than people with dark complexion.
  • Frequent Exposure to UV (Ultraviolet) Radiations is a factor of risk. People who get frequently exposed to UV radiations are more susceptible to melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma.
  • As a person grow in age, they become more prone to get affected by melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma.
  • Doctors have revealed an interesting fact that people who have black or brown have less possibility of developing ocular cancer as compared to people with light colored eye like green, blue or light brown.
  • Hereditary factors can cause melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma. Dysplastic nevus syndrome is a skin disorder commonly found in people. People suffering from this syndrome develop abnormal moles; this increases this risk of melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma.

Complications of Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

Melanoma is a deadly disease and like any other type of cancer, melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma also has three major complications associated:

  • If not treated on time melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma can lead to loss of vision. Large melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma complication includes retinal detachment, which ultimately leads to loss of vision. On the contrary, depending on the critical aspects melanoma small eye melanomas cause temporary or partial vision loss.
  • Glaucoma is a condition where pressure gradually increases within the eyes. Melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma can lead to glaucoma, which causes redness or pain in the eye and in extreme condition, it also leads to blurry vision.
  • Melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma can spread beyond eyes. If not detected and treated on time then ocular melanoma can spread beyond eyes, such as to liver, bones or even lungs.

Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma Spreading To Liver

If not treated on time, malignant cells spreads from eye to other parts of the body. Liver being the most sensitive organ get affected by malignant cells very easily. Doctors perform various tests to ensure whether eye cancer has spread around lungs, liver or not.

Prognosis/Outlook for Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

The prognosis or outlook for melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma in the initial stages is excellent. There are some predictive factors that can help in the prognosis, they are as follows:

  • Age factor.
  • Ciliary body involvement.
  • Traces of orange pigment overlying the tumor.
  • Tumor size.

Coping with Melanoma of Eye or Ocular Melanoma

At times treatment of melanoma of eye or ocular melanoma results in loss of vision of one eye. In this situation also people can lead a normal life. It may take some time and patience. With one eye it becomes difficult for one to judge distance or things present around. One needs to strengthen their will power and try to cope as per the situation.

Also Read:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: June 20, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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