Intraocular Melanoma: The Blind Side of the World

Intraocular Melanoma is a type of eye cancer. The malignant cells proliferate in the part of the eye called the uvea. This type of cancer is prevalent in middle aged adults and can be detected through routine eye examinations. The prognosis of this disease will depend upon the size and cell type of the tumor. Intraocular melanoma is a rare cancer but is one of the most common eye cancers in adults.

The uvea includes the iris, the ciliary body and choroid. The uvea is part of the eye that stores pigment cells called melanocytes. The iris is the colored part of the eye that holds the pupil. Together, these eye parts allow the amount of light to pass through the eye. Another part of the uvea is the ciliary body. The ciliary body is a ring of muscles that allows the pupil and the lens to change its sizes. It also makes the clear fluid that fills the space between the cornea and iris. The choroid on the other hand, is the part of the eye that supplies oxygen and nutrients. Most cases of intraocular melanoma start at the choroid.

Risk Factors
The risk factors of melanoma include:
– sun exposure
– age
– light-colored iris such as blue and green
– fair complexion that burns easily
– tans easily or tans poorly

Symptoms of this cancer may not appear early. An individual should consult a doctor when he or she encounters symptoms such as dark spot on the iris, blurred vision, change in shape of pupil, and change in vision.

Glaucoma can happen if the tumor will cause separation of the retina from the eye. If glaucoma occurs one should feel eye pain and experience blurred vision, eye redness, and nausea.

When a person is diagnosed with melanoma, he or she should undergo different eye exams to find out the exact location of the tumor, the size of the tumor and whether it has spread through other parts of the body. The types of intraocular melanoma include:

– Iris Melanoma
– Ciliary Body Melanoma
– Small Choroidal Melanoma
– Medium And Large Choroidal Melanoma
– Extraocular Extension
– Metastatic Intraocular Melanoma
– Recurrent Intraocular Melanoma

These types of melanoma are characterized according to the size and location of the tumor.

Treatment of this cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, and laser therapy.

Surgery may involve the removal of a part of the eye or the entire eye. The types of surgery for intraocular melanoma are:

– Iridectomy (removal of iris)
– Iridocyclectomy (removal of parts of the iris and the ciliary body)
– Choroidectomy (removal of parts of the choroid)
– Enucleation (removal of the entire eye)
– Orbital Exenteration (removal of the eye and other tissues within the eye socket)
– Iridotrabeculectomy (removal of parts of the iris and the supporting tissues around the cornea)

Radiation therapy may involve the use of high energy rays to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be done externally or internally.

Laser therapy on the other hand, is a treatment that uses a beam of light to eradicate tumors. A dye may be injected causing the dye to be heated by the laser therefore killing the tumor.

Prevention of this cancer is to do regular eye examination so that there will be early detection and prognosis of the disease. Avoiding overexposure from the sun is also one way to prevent intraocular melanoma.

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