Ocular melanoma is a rare form of cancer that most commonly develops in the melanin or pigment-producing cells of an eye’s uvea, the layer between the retina and the sclera. If not treated, this cancer can cause vision complications as well as spread to other parts of the body.

The ophthalmologists at California Retina Associates specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of retinal conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. For your consultation with one of our experienced retina doctors, please call our offices at (619) 425-7755 or (760) 352-7755.

Ocular Melanoma Symptoms

What triggers ocular melanoma is not yet clear, but doctors know that it occurs when errors develop in the DNA of healthy cells. These errors cause the cells to grow and multiply. They collect in or on the eye, forming a melanoma.

The risk for developing this cancer is higher among those who are white and have blue or green eyes, as well as those who have had extensive exposure to ultraviolet light (such as from frequent tanning bed use). This risk for ocular melanoma is also heightened with age and among people with certain hereditary skin disorders, such as a syndrome that causes abnormal moles. Abnormal skin pigmentation of the eyelids or having a mole in the eye or on the eye’s surface may also play a role in increasing the risk of melanoma.

The condition does not typically cause early symptoms, and it develops in an area of the eye that is not directly visible when looking in the mirror, so it can be difficult to detect.

When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • A growing dark spot on the iris
  • Changes in the shape of the pupil
  • Floaters
  • The sensation of flashing lights
  • Blurry or diminished vision in one eye
  • The loss of peripheral vision

If you have any signs or symptoms that could indicate ocular melanoma or another eye disease, you should be screened by our team of ophthalmologists.

Diagnosing Ocular Melanoma

Diagnosing ocular melanoma typically involves a dilated eye exam with the help of special instruments. Ultrasound images or other types of imaging that looks at the blood vessels in and around the eye may also be taken. A sample of suspicious tissue may also be taken and sent to a laboratory to be tested for melanoma cells.

In San Diego, ocular melanoma treatment options include radiation therapy, surgery and laser-induced thermotherapy. In many circumstances, ocular melanoma can be treated without further interference with vision.

Ocular Melanoma Complications

Left untreated, ocular melanoma can contribute to progressive complications that include:

Without treatment, the melanoma can eventually spread outside the eye and to other areas of the body, including the liver, lungs and bones.

Contact Our Ocular Melanoma Specialists

If you live in San Diego or any of the surrounding areas, and you are experiencing symptoms that could be consistent with ocular melanoma, you should schedule an eye exam with our team. Please contact California Retina Associates today to book your visit.