Melanoma in the Eye

January 15, 2022

Most people have heard of the most dangerous form of skin cancer — melanoma. Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color.

What is not commonly known is that your eyes also have melanin-producing cells and can develop melanoma. Eye melanoma, also known as ocular melanoma, is not common, but can be spotted and treated by our ophthalmologists at Millennium Park.

What is ocular melanoma?

Most eye melanomas form in the part of the eye you can’t see when looking in the mirror. This area of the eye is composed of melanocytes and arises from the blood-vessel layer beneath the retina. Because ocular melanoma occurs in this area, it is difficult to detect. For the patient, it doesn’t usually display early signs of symptoms.

Treatment for some small eye melanomas man not interfere with your vision, but treatment for large eye melanomas typically leads to some loss of vision.

What are the symptoms of ocular melanoma?

This rare form of melanoma may not cause signs or symptoms. When they do occur, these are the signs and symptoms:

  • A sensation of flashes or specks of dust in your vision (floaters)
  • A growing dark spot on the iris
  • A change in the shape of the dark circle (pupil) at the center of your eye
  • Poor or blurry vision in one eye
  • Loss of peripheral vision

What causes ocular melanoma?

The causes of this rare eye melanoma and not well understood. Doctors know that eye melanoma occurs when errors develop in the DNA of healthy eye cells. The DNA errors tell the cells to grow and multiply out of control, so the mutated cells go on living when they would normally die. The mutated cells accumulate in the eye and form an eye melanoma.

Where in the eye does this occur?

As mentioned above, eye melanoma most commonly develops in the cells of the middle layer of the eye, the uvea. The uvea has three parts, and each can be affected by eye melanoma:

  • The iris, the colored part in the front of the eye
  • The choroid layer, the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue between the sclera and the retina at the back of the uvea
  • The ciliary body, the front of the uvea that secretes aqueous humor into the eye


At Millennium Park Eye Center, our board-certified ophthalmologists can treat ocular melanoma with radiation therapy, laser treatment, photodynamic therapy, cryotherapy, or surgery.

Do you need help with a problem with your eyes? Call the expert team at Millennium Park Eye Center, (312) 996-2020, to make an appointment.


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