Improving Your Look

5 Things You Need To Know About Ciliary Body Melanoma

Your ciliary body is a ring-shaped tissue within your eye. Its functions include supporting the lens of your eye and producing aqueous humor, the fluid between your lens and your cornea. This lesser-known eye tissue can develop cancer, including melanoma. Here are five things you need to know about ciliary body melanoma.

What are the signs of ciliary body melanoma?

In the early stages, ciliary body melanoma doesn't cause any symptoms. As the cancer grows, it can lead to problems like blurry vision, floaters, or pain within the eye. Early-stage ciliary body melanoma may be accidentally discovered during a routine eye exam.

What causes it?

Researchers know that the cancer starts in the melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, but the exact cause of ciliary body melanoma still isn't well understood. It's thought that excessive sun exposure may play a role in the development of ciliary body melanoma; this theory is supported by the fact that light-skinned people with green or blue eyes are more likely to develop this type of cancer. More research needs to be done to confirm this theory.

How serious is it?

Ciliary body melanoma is very serious. Since it doesn't cause any symptoms at first, it's not usually discovered until it's already spread to other parts of the eye, like the choroid or the iris. It is often not diagnosed until the cancer has already metastasized. Due to the often late diagnosis, the 10-year mortality rate for this type of cancer ranges between 30% and 50%.

How is ciliary body melanoma treated?

Your optometrist will refer you to an ocular oncologist for treatment. This cancer is treated with radiation therapy such as plaque brachytherapy or external beam radiation therapy. Plaque brachytherapy involves implanting a gold or steel bowl containing small radioactive seeds in your tumor; the seeds will release radiation directly into your tumor without causing serious damage to the rest of your eye.

External beam radiation therapy involves aiming a beam or radiation at the tumor. This treatment works better for cancers that have spread throughout the eye, though it causes more complications than plaque brachytherapy.

Can it be prevented?

Since the exact cause of this cancer isn't yet known, there is no sure-fire way to prevent it. However, since sun exposure is thought to be a major cause, you may be able to protect yourself by wearing sunglasses when you're outdoors.

If you notice any changes in your vision, see an optometrist, such as Northway Eye & Contact Lens Center, right away as you may have ciliary body melanoma.