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What is Melanoma of the Eyelid, Know its Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Complications

What is Melanoma of the Eyelid?

The eyelid is made mainly of skin and blood capillaries. The eyelids are there to protect our eyes from external factors such as dust, water etc. By the reflex action, our eyelids close immediately when certain object is brought near our eyes. Also the eyelids protects the eyes from dust and other tiny particles to enter the eyes. Eyelids even though are used mainly for protection and covering the eyes are very soft and delicate in nature.

Melanoma is the growth of pigments on various parts of the body. It mainly grows on skin; for women, it is often seen on legs. Sometimes, even though not quite often, melanoma may be seen to be growing on the intestine, on the mouth or on the eye.

The cells which contain the pigments and grow on the skin or on the eye are often cancerous in nature. Therefore, melanoma of the eyelid is also known as malignant melanoma of the eyelid. Sometimes, the abnormal development on the mole like the mole gets itchy, the color changes or the size of the mole grows, the skin starts breaking down and the edges of the mole gets irregular may also indicate melanoma.

What is Melanoma of the Eyelid?

Causes of Melanoma of the Eyelid

The most important and common cause of melanoma on the eyelid is the UV rays effecting the skin or the upper layer of the lower eyelid. The UV rays comes directly from the sun and affects you. It can also affect you if you are exposed to some substance containing UV radiations. People having very less melanin content are mostly affected by the UV radiations and thus, are prone to developing melanoma of the eyelid. These people usually have a very light complexion, which prove that the melanin content on their skin cells are very low. Also people who have poor skin or highly sensitive skin can develop melanoma from the UV rays of the sun. Other factors like the medical history of the patient or heredity can cause melanoma of the eyelid.

The pigment appearing on the eyelid (on the upper or the lower eyelid) or the lesions that grow are often benign. The new skin cells are supposed to replace the old skin cells by pushing the old skin cells upwards from where they fall off the body. When these cells do not fall off, but accumulate together and create a damage in the DNA, then these cells form those lesions on various parts of the body. These cells then can become uncontrollable and will gather up as a mass affecting the normal cells and that is when you know that these cells have become malignant.

Symptoms of Melanoma of the Eyelid

The first symptom of the melanoma of the eyelid is to notice any abnormal spot or lesion on your eyelid. Other important symptoms are:

  • Abnormal development of the mole on the eyelid.
  • Abnormal growth of the mole.
  • The border of the mole getting larger and crooked.
  • Another symptom of melanoma of the eyelid is that the color of the mole changes.
  • The size of the mole increase and the shape gets distorted and asymmetrical.

Tests to Diagnose Melanoma of the Eyelid

There are few tests to diagnose melanoma of the eyelid. Once you notice an abnormal development on your eyelid, you should immediately consult a dermatologist and then he or she would refer you to an oncologist. After checking the family medical history and your medical history, the doctors will choose the tests. Though the lesions of the melanoma could be benign, a biopsy is asked to be done by the doctor. Only after the FNAC (Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology) usually known as the needle biopsy, the doctors can tell if it is malignant or benign. Accordingly, the treatment shall be done.

Treatment for Melanoma of the Eyelid

The usual method of treatment for melanoma of the eyelid is to operate and remove the abnormal growth from the body. If the melanoma is found to be malignant, immediately it shall be operated and then the patient have to go through chemotherapy (or radiation therapy though it may harm the eyes directly). If the melanoma is found to be benign, which is for 2/3rd of the cases, it can be treated with medicines and then can be operated, so that it does not affect the person in any way. Depending on the features of the mole that has developed, the treatment method is chosen too. Other therapies for melanoma of the eyelid like biological therapy to develop the immune system of the body to fight the malignant cells and targeted therapy to stop the disease from spreading and the affecting only the harmful cells are adopted by the doctors.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Melanoma of the Eyelid

The recovery period or healing time for melanoma of the eyelid depends on type of treatment that the doctor chooses for you. Also, the treatment is time consuming. The doctor will be able to tell you how long you may take to recover. He or she will also be able to tell you if you may redevelop those cancer cells or not.

Prevention of Melanoma of the Eyelid

Using a proper sun skin lotion or avoiding direct exposure to the UV rays may prevent one from developing melanoma of the eyelid. Also treating your sun burns properly and getting your skin checked could help you to prevent the disease.

Risk Factors for Melanoma of the Eyelid

The risk factors which can often lead to melanoma of the eyelid are:

  • Having a very fair skin with very less content of melanin.
  • Having too many moles and growing of abnormal moles.
  • Having a sunburn or being exposed to the UV radiations for a long time.
  • Living near the equator.
  • Adopting the disease from your family is a common risk factor for melanoma of the eyelid.

Complications of Melanoma of the Eyelid

Often melanoma of the eyelid takes time to notice and by that time the disease could have been spread in such a way that nothing can be done to curb it down. When melanoma of the eyelid is malignant, it can lead to the death of the patient or affect the look of the patient in a way from which he or she might not be able to recover.

Prognosis/Outlook for Melanoma of the Eyelid

The outlook or prognosis for melanoma of the eyelid in case of benign is excellent, as it can be treated by medicines. In case if the melanoma of the eyelid is malignant, then the outlook varies depending on multiple factors. If your family has a history of melanoma of the eyelid, you too could develop that. If malignant melanoma of the eyelid diagnosed at the 1st stage, it can be cured. If diagnosed late, it may cause death too.

Lifestyle Changes for Melanoma of the Eyelid

Below are some of the lifestyle changes for melanoma of the eyelid:

  • Avoiding direct sun during the noon is a good lifestyle change for melanoma of the eyelid.
  • Using protections like medicated sun skin lotions or using covers to avoid sun burns if you are very light skinned.
  • Taking good care of your skin.
  • If you are growing any mole on your eyelid, get it checked.

Coping with Melanoma of the Eyelid

The treatment for melanoma of the eyelid mainly suggests surgery and then various therapies. The process is long and can be painful, one must not lose hope. The family of the patient should always be supporting, so that the sufferer can properly cope with melanoma of the eyelid.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Eyelid Cancer. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eyelid-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20372497
  2. National Cancer Institute. Intraocular (Uveal) Melanoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/eye/patient/intraocular-melanoma-treatment-pdq

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2023

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