Melanoma is a form of cancer that begins in the cells that create melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color.
The eyes also have cells that produce melanin and can develop melanoma. Ocular melanoma is another name for eye melanoma. A majority of eye melanomas develop in a part of the eye that is not visible when viewing a mirror. This makes eye melanoma challenging to diagnose.
Patients should note that eye melanoma usually does not present any early signs or symptoms. Khan Eyelid and Facial Aesthetics, led by board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Tanya Khan, provides safe and proven eye care procedures to patients in Austin, Dallas, Texas, and surrounding communities.
Eye melanoma may not lead to signs and symptoms. However, when they do occur, the signs and symptoms of this condition may include the following:
- A sensation of specks of dust or flashed in the vision (floaters)
- A growing dark spot on the iris
- A change in the shape of the pupil (dark circle at the center of the eye)
- Blurry or poor vision in one eye
- Peripheral vision loss
When to Consult a Doctor
If a person experiences any signs or symptoms that worry them, they should promptly consult a doctor. Sudden vision changes indicate an emergency, and the patient should seek immediate medical care in such circumstances.
The treatment options for eye melanoma will depend on the size and location of the melanoma as well as the patient’s general health and preferences.
Radiation therapy makes use of high-powered energy, such as gamma rays or protons, to eliminate cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used for small to medium-sized eye melanomas.
In certain situations, a laser to eliminate the melanoma cells may be a viable option. One type of laser treatment, known as thermotherapy, uses an infrared laser and is sometimes used along with radiation therapy.
Photodynamic therapy is a combination of drugs with a special beam of light. The medication makes the malignant cells vulnerable to light. The treatment causes damage to the vessels and the cells that comprise the eye melanoma. Photodynamic therapy is used in the treatment of smaller tumors, as it is not effective in the case of larger cancers.
In some small eye melanomas, extreme cold (cryotherapy) may be used to destruct melanoma cells. However, this treatment is not commonly used.
In surgical procedures used to treat eye melanoma, a part of the eye or the entire eye may be removed. The procedure that the patient will undergo will depend on the location and size of the eye melanoma.
Surgical options may include the following:
- Surgery to excise the melanoma and a tiny area of normal tissue
- Surgery to remove the melanoma and a margin of healthy tissue surrounding it may be a treatment option for small melanomas
- Surgery to remove the complete eye (enucleation)
Enucleation is typically used for the treatment of large eye tumors. In addition, it may be used if the tumor causes eye pain.
After the removal of the eye melanoma, the surgeon will insert an implant into the same position. The muscles controlling the eye movement are attached to the implant, which enables the implant to move.
After the patient has had some time to recover, a prosthesis (an artificial eye) is made. The front surface of the new eye will be custom painted to match the color of the patient’s existing eye.
Oculoplastic & reconstructive surgeon Dr. Tanya Khan receives patients from Austin, Dallas, Texas, and nearby areas for advanced eye care procedures.
Offices in Dallas and Austin, Texas.