We had an interesting case this morning. The brown lesion you see on the sclera (the white part of the eye) is called Primary Acquired Melanosis of the conjunctiva (PAM). This is a potentially dangerous melanocytic lesion that can lead to melanoma of the eye. Most patients have no symptoms, but may notice the cosmetic changes on the surface of the eye. Some patients may notice it changing size, shape, or color (darkening). A small percentage of patients may notice the area being red.
Typical symptoms of eye cancer are:
- Shadows, Curtains, Floaters/Wiggly Lines in your field of vision
- New or worsening blurred vision, often only in the eye affected
- Dark patch in your eye, growing larger
- Partial or total loss of vision
- Bulging of one eye
- A lump on your eyelid or in the eye that is getting bigger
- Pain in and around your eye (rare)
These symptoms can also be caused by more minor eye conditions, so they're not necessarily a sign of cancer. However, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, see your eye doctor immediately.
Smaller lesions are typically observed by the doctor for changes. A changing or larger lesion would need a biopsy.
In recent studies, only 16% became larger, and around 5% progressed to melanoma. If removed, they can recur, therefore close follow up with your eye doctor is needed.
Sometimes we have found these lesions hiding behind the eyelid. These can be easily missed and require careful examination with a biomicroscope.
We do think there is a correlation with the lifetime accumulation of UV or sun damage. Yet, another reason why sunglasses are a must for all patients. Any patients using a tanning bed should wear UV protective goggles.
Common Causes of Eye Cancer:
- Light-Colored eyes - if you have blue, grey or green eyes, you have a higher risk of developing eye melanoma compared with people who have brown eyes
- Light Skin Tone - People with fair skin are more susceptible to developing skin and eye cancer.
- Use of Sunbeds - Tanning beds are a well-known cause of skin cancer, but it can also increase your risk of eye cancer as well. Always wear tanning goggles!
- Overexposure to Sunlight - This is also a common cause. It is important to note that eyeglasses without UV protection are cancer-magnifiers. It takes the sunlight hitting your lenses and magnifies it onto your skin around your eye. The skin surrounding your eye is incredible sensitive and delicate, so sunglass protection, Transition lenses, or prescription sunglasses is a must.
If the cancer or lesion is left untreated, possible treatments include:
- Brachytherapy – tiny plates lined with radioactive material called plaques are inserted near the tumor and left in place for up to a week to kill the cancerous cells
- External radiotherapy – a machine is used to carefully aim beams of radiation at the tumor to kill the cancerous cells
- Surgery to remove the tumor or part of the eye – this may be possible if the tumor is small and you still have some vision in your eye
- Removal of the eye (enucleation) – this may be necessary if the tumor is large or you have lost your vision; the eye will eventually be replaced with an artificial eye that matches your other eye
- Chemotherapy for skin cancer around the eye
The treatments are scary, vision- and life-threatening. So if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, contact your eye doctor right away.
Dr. Anita Le and Dr. Bret Furnish are highly qualified optometrists dedicated to you and your eyes. Dr. Le and Dr. Furnish serve the Newcastle and Tri-City area in Oklahoma. They are trained in medical emergencies, just like this, to find and immediately treat early signs of eye cancer. Newcastle, Oklahoma, is home to the most advanced technology in eye care and eye cancer prevention and eye cancer diagnosis - only at Complete Eye Care - Newcastle.
Whomever you choose, it is important to watch for changes in your eye to protect your vision. It is the only two eyes you will ever have!