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Understanding the Warning Signs of an Eye Tumor

Understanding the Warning Signs of an Eye Tumor

Eye tumors are like tumors anywhere else in your body. They’re collections of abnormal cells that may or may not be cancerous, but they can produce uncomfortable symptoms in either case.

At Retina Specialists, our expert team of board-certified ophthalmologists understands that the word “tumor” can produce a lot of anxiety, no matter whether the tumor is cancerous or benign. But understanding the warning signs of an eye tumor can help you know when to come in to see a doctor; the earlier the tumor is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis is likely to be.

More about eye tumors

Eye cancer is relatively rare, and it’s even rarer that a cancerous tumor forms directly in the eye. Most of the time a cancerous eye tumor is metastatic, meaning it originated in another part of the body and migrated to the eye.

Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma or choroidal melanoma, is the most common primary cancerous tumor of the eye. The tumor is composed of the pigmented cells, and it usually appears in the iris, the ciliary body, or the choroid. Together, these are called the uvea.

Most ocular melanomas form in the choroid, the vascular layer located between the retina at the back of the eye and the sclera (the white part).

The warning signs of an eye tumor

Like skin moles, eye moles form when pigmented cells grow together in a group, so your first indication of a problem may be an abnormal brown spot on or in your eye, known as a nevus. 


Since eye tumors usually produce no symptoms, they’re often found during routine eye examinations. However, they may cause symptoms like blurry vision or “floaters,” shadows in your visual field.


Benign eye tumors can cause other symptoms, too, including:

Malignant (cancerous) tumors may cause additional symptoms, such as:

If you notice any of these warning signs, make an appointment with Retina Specialists as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment leads to better outcomes, including preserving your sight.

Who is at risk for an eye tumor?

Benign growths that appear on the skin around the eye, eyelid, and the conjunctiva are most often caused by exposure to wind and the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Wearing sunglasses when you go out can help prevent the growths from developing

Growths that appear suddenly are usually caused by inflammation or a viral infection, and eye changes due to getting older can also lead to benign growths. Large pigmented lesions or moles can be due to genetics or related to an underlying medical condition.


Cancerous tumors develop when changes occur to your genetic material, altering the instructions that tell your cells what they need to do. These changes are called mutations. Some mutations are inherited, but many occur after you’re born. Some of the key factors that increase mutation rate are smoking, exposure to radiation or carcinogenic substances, obesity, chronic inflammation, and hormones.

Primary intraocular melanoma most often develops in people over 50. It’s rare in children and people older than 70. It’s also more common in light-skinned people, but men and women are equally affected.

Treatment depends on whether the tumor is benign or cancerous, whether it’s producing any symptoms including interfering with your vision, and your overall health. Our doctors will discuss all their findings with you at your consultation, and they’ll draw up a treatment plan.

If you’ve noticed an eye mole or any other warning signs of an eye tumor, it’s time to come into Retina Specialists for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Call us at any of our five Texas offices, or book online with us today.

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