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Ocular Tumours: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

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Ocular tumours are collections of cells that grow abnormally in the eye or its orbit, or on the choroid, conjunctiva, retina, or eyelids. These tumours must be treated right away, so they don’t threaten your vision or life. Here is everything you need to know about eye tumours. 

Types of ocular tumours

Ocular tumours can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A metastatic eye tumour happens by the spread of cancer from one body part to another.

Ocular, choroidal, or uveal melanoma is the rarest type of eye tumour. It’s developed by pigmented cells, primarily in the choroid, ciliary body, or the iris of the eye. Intraocular haemangioma, retinoblastoma, and lymphoma are other rare types of primary intraocular tumours. Lacrimal gland tumour, eyelid carcinoma, and conjunctival melanoma are other less common eye cancers. 

Symptoms of the disease

Benign tumours

These may grow within the wall of your eye or on your eyelid and seem like pigmented lesions inside your eye. Haemangiomas can show as an abnormal growth of blood vessels around or inside the eye. Symptoms of choroidal haemangioma can be changes in vision or redness.   

Malignant tumours

There are various types of eye cancer. Orbital cancers affect the eye’s orbit (tissues around the eyeball like the nerves attached to it, and the muscles that move it). Adnexal cancers affect the adnexal structures like the tear glands and eyelids. 

Malignant melanomas often develop from moles. So, regularly check any moles near or in the eye for changes. Sometimes, there are symptoms like: 

  • Glaucoma
  • Irregularly shaped pupil
  • Floaters (floating objects)
  • Visual distortion
  • Flashes of light
  • Loss of vision

Causes of ocular tumours

Benign tumours

Benign tumours around the conjunctiva, eyelids, and eyes often develop due to exposure to UV rays, the wind, or sometimes a virus. Others occur due to ageing. Large moles may be associated with a medical condition or genetics. Intraocular tumours occur when pigmented cells accumulate and become darker.

Malignant tumours

Cancer occurs due to mutations or changes to DNA within cells. As a result, they begin to grow abnormally. There may be gene mutations (inherited or acquired). Risk factors of acquired mutations include chronic inflammation, hormonal changes, obesity, carcinogens, viruses, radiation exposure, smoking, and lack of exercise.

What is the Treatment for Ocular Tumours

A benign tumour on the outside of an eye can be removed by cauterization, specific chemicals, or surgery. But first, it is examined bi-annually or annually to observe any possible changes. 

The objective to treat malignant tumours is to lower the risk of metastasis and maintain the vision and health of the affected eye. Treatment options vary based on certain factors like the patient’s overall health, and the location, type, and stage of the eye cancer. As per the diagnosis, the treatment plan may include these options:

  • Radiation therapy. Radiation oncologists use this procedure to destroy cancer cells. It generally includes a certain round of treatments over a while.
  • Laser therapy. Here, ophthalmologists employ lasers to shrink ocular tumours. This is a non-invasive procedure with fewer side effects than radiation therapy.

Once you find any signs of an ocular tumour near, on, or inside your eye, you should contact an eye specialist right away. After treatment, ensure to have routine eye check-ups to prevent the recurrence of malignant lesions. 

Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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