Ocular melanoma (melanoma in or around the eye) is a type of cancer that develops in the cells that produce pigment — the substance that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. Just as you can develop melanoma on your skin, you can also develop it in your eye. Although it is the most common eye cancer in adults, ocular melanoma is rare.
Ocular melanomas usually begin in the middle of the three layers of your eye. The outer layer of your eye is the sclera, the strong white wall of the eye. The innermost layer is the retina, which senses light and helps to send images to your brain. The middle layer between the sclera and retina is called the uvea. The uvea contains many blood vessels — the veins, arteries and capillaries — that carry blood to and from the eye.
Though these types are very rare, eye melanoma can also occur on the conjunctiva — the outermost layer on the front of the eye, in the eye socket and on the eyelid.
Because most eye melanomas form in the part of the eye you can't see when looking in a mirror, they can be difficult to detect. In addition, eye melanoma typically doesn't cause early signs or symptoms. Most melanomas are detected during a routine eye exam. That’s why it is so important to see your ophthalmologist regularly.
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