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Eye Cancer Symptoms

The Signs and Symptoms of Eye Cancer

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Updated June 15, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Eye cancer is a general term used to describe many types of cancer that can develop in the eye. In adults, when people speak of eye cancer, they are usually referencing ocular melanoma, the most common type of eye cancer that affects adults. However, eye cancer can occur in children in the form of the disease called retinoblastoma.

Symptoms of Eye Cancer

Symptoms of eye cancer vary based on the type of cancer. Symptoms of adult eye cancer cancer be very different from the cancer that affects the eyes of children. In adults, symptoms can include:
  • blurred vision in one eye
  • floaters (small "floating" spots in vision field)
  • change in iris color or dark spot on iris
  • red and/or painful eye
  • bulging eye
  • loss of peripheral vision

In the early stages of most eye cancers that affect adults, there usually are no symptoms a person would notice on his own. Early signs are often discovered by a optometrist during a routine eye exam.

Symptoms of Eye Cancer in Children

The most common eye cancer in children is retinoblastoma, a disease that affects 300 children in the U.S. each year. It is usually diagnosed in children 2 and under, but can strike in other ages -- just less commonly.

Symptoms of restinoblastoma include:

  • a white pupil (leukocoria)
  • misaligned eyes, or "cross eyes" (strabismus)
  • eye pain due to development of glaucoma (this is less common)
  • different colored pupil in each eye

Many parents find a white spot or a bright white pupil in photographs of their children. One eye may react normally to the flash, creating a "red eye," while the other might show a bright white pupil. Other variations, including a "cat's eye" appearance, may also be seen.

Do not purposely shine a flashlight or other source of light directly into your child's eye to further investigate any eye cancer symptoms. The lights that doctors use are specifically engineered to safely examine the eye -- flashlights are not.

What to Do If You Have the Symptoms of Eye Cancer

Report any changes to your physician, who may refer you to a specialized eye doctor called an ophthalmologist. Adult eye cancers are fairly simple to diagnose under a trained physician.

If you suspect your child may have the symptoms of retinoblastoma, please see your pediatrician as soon as possible. Early detection is key with retinoblastoma as it can be an aggressive type or childhood cancer.

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