What Is Uveal Melanoma?
Melanoma is a specific type of cancer that occurs within the cells responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. While melanoma more commonly presents as skin cancer, it can sometimes develop within your eyes, which also have cells that produce melanin. This type of melanoma is known as uveal melanoma.
The majority of uveal melanoma cases form in parts of the eye that you’re unable to see when looking at yourself in a mirror, making it somewhat hard to detect — especially since it rarely causes early signs and symptoms.
In extremely rare cases, uveal melanoma may develop on the outermost layer on the front of the eye (conjunctiva) inside the socket that surrounds the eyeball and on the eyelid.
Symptoms of Uveal Melanoma
Eye melanoma may not initially cause any noticeable signs and symptoms, which can include:
- The sensation of flashes or specks of dust in your vision
- A dark spot on the iris
- A change in the shape of the dark circle (pupil) at the center of your eye
- Blurry vision in one eye
- Decreased peripheral vision
What Causes Uveal Melanoma?
Doctors are not entirely sure what causes uveal melanoma.
However, it is believed that uveal melanoma occurs when errors develop in the DNA of healthy eye cells. The faulty DNA causes the cells to grow and multiply out of control, allowing mutated cells to continue existing when they would otherwise die. These mutated cells then accumulate within the eye and form uveal melanoma.
Risk factors for uveal melanoma may include light eye color, certain inherited skin disorders, abnormal skin pigmentation involving the eyelids and adjacent tissues, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, and certain genetic mutations.
In order to properly diagnose eye melanoma, your ophthalmologist may recommend an eye exam that includes binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy or slit-lamp biomicroscopy, which uses lenses and a microscope to produce an intense beam of light to illuminate the interior of your eye.
Eye ultrasounds and optical coherence tomography may also be used, and in rare cases, a biopsy may be necessary. Your ophthalmologist may recommend additional tests to identify if the melanoma has spread to other parts of your body.
What Are the Treatment Options for Uveal Melanoma?
Uveal melanoma treatment options are dependent on the location and size of the melanoma, as well as your overall health.
Smaller eye melanomas may not require any treatment in the short term; your doctor may choose to wait and monitor for any signs of growth.
If the melanoma grows or creates further issues, treatment is warranted. These options can include:
Uveal Melanoma Treatment at Dean McGee Eye Institute
Dean McGee Eye Institute is a leading provider of ocular oncology, including treatments for uveal melanoma. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms related to uveal melanoma, the expert team of ophthalmologists at DMEI would love to provide an eye examination to determine if further treatment or action is needed.