Presse Santé

Eye cancer: what are the signs and symptoms?

Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin. It is the pigment that gives color to your skin. Your eyes also have melanin-producing cells and can develop melanoma. Ocular melanoma is also called ocular melanoma.

Most ocular melanomas form in the part of the eye that you can’t see when you look in the mirror. This makes ocular melanoma difficult to detect. Also, ocular melanoma usually does not cause early signs or symptoms.

There is a treatment for melanomas of the eye. Treatment for some small ocular melanomas may not interfere with your vision. However, treatment of large ocular melanomas usually results in some vision loss.

eye cancer symptoms

Ocular melanoma cannot cause signs and symptoms. When they do occur, the signs and symptoms of melanoma of the eye may include:

– Sensation of sparkles or specks of dust in the vision (floaters)
– growing dark spot on the iris
– A change in the shape of the black circle (pupil) in the center of the eye
– Weak or blurred vision in one eye
– Loss of peripheral vision

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. Sudden changes in your vision indicate an emergency, so seek immediate attention in these situations.

Causes of eye cancer

The cause of ocular melanoma is not clear. Doctors know that melanoma of the eye occurs when errors develop in the DNA of healthy cells in the eye. These DNA errors cause cells to grow and multiply out of control. So the mutated cells continue to live when they normally should die. The mutated cells accumulate in the eye and form an ocular melanoma.

Where does ocular melanoma occur?

Ocular melanoma most often develops in the cells of the middle layer of the eye (uvea). The uvea has three parts, each of which can be affected by melanoma of the eye:

– The iris, which is the colored part at the front of the eye.
– The choroid layer, which is the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue between the sclera and the retina at the back of the uvea
– The ciliary body, which lies in front of the uvea and secretes the clear fluid (aqueous humor) into the eye.
– Ocular melanoma can also occur in the outermost layer of the front of the eye (conjunctiva), in the cavity around the eyeball, and on the eyelid. Although these types of ocular melanoma are very rare.

Risk factors for developing eye cancer

Risk factors for primary melanoma of the eye include

light eye color

People with blue or green eyes are at increased risk of ocular melanoma.

to be white

White people have a higher risk of ocular melanoma than people of other colors.


The risk of ocular melanoma increases with age.
Certain hereditary skin diseases

A condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome, which causes abnormal moles, can increase the risk of developing melanoma on the skin and in the eye.

In addition, people with abnormal pigmentation of the skin of the eyelids and surrounding tissues and increased pigmentation of the uvea, known as ocular melanocytosis, are also at increased risk of developing ocular melanoma.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays

The role of ultraviolet exposure in ocular melanoma is unclear. There is some evidence that exposure to UV rays, such as from sunlight or tanning beds, may increase the risk of ocular melanoma.

Certain genetic mutations

Certain genes that are passed from parents to children can increase the risk of ocular melanoma.

eye cancer complications

Complications of ocular melanoma can include:

Increased pressure inside the eye (glaucoma).

Enlarging ocular melanoma can cause glaucoma. Signs and symptoms of glaucoma can include eye pain and redness, as well as blurred vision.

Sight loss

Large ocular melanomas often cause vision loss in the affected eye and can cause complications, such as retinal detachment, that also cause vision loss.

Small ocular melanomas can cause some vision loss if they occur in critical parts of the eye. You may have difficulty seeing in the center or to the side of your vision. Very advanced ocular melanomas can lead to complete vision loss.

Ocular melanoma that extends beyond the eye. Ocular melanoma can spread outside the eye and to distant areas of the body, including the liver, lungs, and bones.


Uveal melanoma. Fort Washington, Pennsylvania: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. .

Boluses B. Ocular tumors. In: Kanski’s Clinical Ophthalmology: A Systematic Approach. 8th ed. Edinburgh, UK: Elsevier, Ltd.; 2016.

Port JW, et al. Initial management of uveal and conjunctival melanomas. Accessed July 8, 2018.

Intraocular (uveal) melanoma symptoms, tests, prognosis, and stages (PDQ). National Cancer Institute.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information provided can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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