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Cancerous Eye Diseases

Cancer is probably one of the most feared diseases in the world today. Most people are familiar with cancers that affect important organs of the body like the lungs, ovaries and breasts. However, few people know that some eye diseases can also be cancerous. Similar to other types, cancer eye diseases are also staged based on the tumor’s size and the extent of its spread. They can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Here are some common forms of cancerous eye diseases:

Melanoma of the Iris

•    It originates in the iris or the round and colored disk in the middle of the eyeball that is responsible for restricting the flow of light through the pupil to the retina. The iris does this by expanding and contracting.
•    Your iris tends to have a dark spot when you have this condition.
•    Initially, it may not affect your vision but as the tumor grows, it can damage your eye, blur your vision and cause glaucoma.

Intraocular Melanoma

•    This eye disease originates from the melanocytes or the cells that color your skin and eyes.

Choroidal and Ciliary Melanoma

•    Malignant cells are found in the choroidea or the layer of vessels between your sclera and your retina. This part of the eye manipulates the lens and helps us focus.

Conjunctival Melanoma

•    This eye disease may be caused by: (a) conjunctival nevis or freckles; or (b) primary acquired melanosis (PAM) or flat brownish growths on the surface of the eye associated with mid-life.
•    It may brown or pink colored.
•    It may be detected with a slit lamp biomicroscopy.

Conjunctival Squamous Cell Carcinoma

•    This common form of conjunctival cancer is characterized by flat and scale-like cells that occur in thin layers. The tumor appears like a red, fleshy and elevated growth.
•    One symptom of this condition is conjunctivitis which lasts longer than three months.
•    It commonly affects the orbit, tear gland, brain and eyelid.

Intraocular Lymphoma

•    This eye disease may be classified either as a vitreoretinal lymphoma or an uveal lymphoma.
•    Its symptoms may include seeing floaters, blurred vision, headaches, trouble focusing and swollen retina.
•    This may be detected by performing a magnetic resonance imaging on the brain and a fine-needle aspiration biopsy on the vitreous matter of the eyeball.

Conjunctival Lymphoma

•    This is a cancer in the lymphatic system. One symptom would be a fleshy and salmon-colored tumor in the white part of your eye.
•    It can be detected with a biopsy.

Retinoblastoma

•    This rare type of cancer commonly affects children below 5 years old. Data show that it occurs once in every 15,000 live births with 250 to 300 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year.
•    When inherited, this condition strikes at a younger age, while the non-hereditary form affects older children.
•    This condition may be detected through a full-head computer-assisted tomography (CT scan) and ultrasonography.
•    It commonly spreads to the bones and the central nervous system.

Lacrimal Gland Cancer

•    This eye disease affects the lacrimal glands or the glands responsible for producing tears.
•    It can be detected by performing a CT scan.
•    It usually spreads to the lungs.

Luckily all of these eye cancers / tumours are very rare but… regular eye testing is more likely to pick up an irregularity, which can be promptly referred for a specialist opinion.

An appointment with The Eye Practice can be made online by CLICKING HERE (http://www NULL.theeyepractice NULL.com NULL.au/bookeyeexam) or phoning (02) 9290 1899.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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