The development of the skin melanoma we are the most familiar with is usually attributed to the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. And with good reason. Those dangerous rays are its primary cause; and by a large margin.
However, not every type of melanoma’s origins fall under the purview of our sun. Ocular melanoma, an affliction almost always confined to adults, is one such exception. Although, as with skin melanoma, pale-toned (and blue-eyed) individuals, and those with atypical mole syndrome, are its most frequent victims.
What is Ocular Melanoma?
Ocular melanoma (Officially, Uveal melanoma) is a rare form of eye cancer. It’s a belligerent cancer that can develop anywhere within a trio of sections inside the eye, (Iris, ciliary body, choroid or posterior uvea). Except for iris melanoma it’s difficult to detect and, unless highly-advanced, it’s usually painless.
This picture shows an example of Ocular Melanoma in the iris:
Unfortunately, unlike its skin melanoma cousin, most ocular melanomas don’t give advanced notice of their arrivals.
Medical science has yet to peg down the reason(s) for ocular melanoma’s existence; nor the catalyst(s) that trigger it. And even though new techniques are continually being developed to fight it, it will still become fatal to half of those whom it impacts.
Diagnosing Ocular Melanoma
Of the three sections of the eye mentioned above, only melanoma of the iris can be self-detected. The other types can be detected by a routine eye exam. As a result, ophthalmologists recommend scheduling an eye exam annually.
As eyes are very sensitive areas, it’s understandable that, initially, many people may find the idea of an ocular melanoma exam undesirable. However, there is no need for that.
Please note that (excluding the need for a biopsy, or an injection of highlighting dye into the arm) nearly all the tools an ophthalmologist has at his or her disposal for use in diagnosing this disease are non-invasive. Biopsies are very uncommon and rarely ordered.
A diagram of the eye:
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