Talk to the Experts

Eye Cancers

Cancer of the eye is rare in the UK. About 450 people get eye cancer each year. Eye cancer is usually treated with surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Eye cancer is caused by an uncontrolled growth of cells in or around the eye. There are several different types of eye cancer. Cancer that develops in the eye is called intraocular cancer. Cancer that develops outside the eye is called extraocular cancer.

Symptoms of eye cancer vary depending on the type of cancer and where it is located.

Intraocular cancers such as ocular melanoma have no symptoms but are usually detected in routine eye examinations. This is why it is important to have an eye test every two years.

Some eye cancers can cause symptoms including:

  • partial or complete loss of vision.
  • seeing flashing lights or spots.
  • a dark spot on your iris that is growing.
  • a visible lump on your eyelid with crusting or bleeding.
  • pain in or around the eye (rare).
  • a bulging eye.
  • watery eyes.

Treatment depends on the type of eye cancer, the size, how far it has spread (staging) and your general state of health. There are three main treatments for eye cancer.


Surgery

Surgery involves removing just the affected tissue. Surgery is usually enough to remove most tumours of the eyelids. It is sometimes combined with radiotherapy for treating cancers in the eye. Some types of eye cancer, such as melanoma of the eye, can be treated with laser therapy (a high-energy beam of light is used to destroy the cancer cells).


Non-surgical treatments

Radiotherapy– radiation is used to kill cancer cells. It is often used for treating melanoma of the eye.

Chemotherapy – anti-cancer drugs are used to destroy cancer cells. They are usually injected into a vein but sometimes may be given as tablets. Chemotherapy can be effective for treating lymphoma of the eye and retinoblastoma. It is only used for melanoma of the eye if other types of treatment have not worked.

If you are at all concerned, or have any of the symptoms above, it is important that you contact your GP as soon as possible.


Oculo Plastics

Ptosis (pronounced “TOE-sis”) refers to drooping of an upper eyelid of one or both eyes. The droop may be barely noticeable, or the lid can descend over the entire pupil. Ptosis can affect both children and adults, but usually occurs because of aging.

The degree of droopiness varies from one person to the next. If you think you may have ptosis, compare a recent photo of your face with one from 10 or 20 years ago, and you will likely see a difference in the eyelid skin.

Surgery usually is the best treatment for drooping eyelids. Your surgeon tightens levator muscles to lift eyelids, giving you improved vision and appearance. In very severe cases involving weakened levator muscles, your surgeon attaches the eyelid under the eyebrow.  This allows the forehead muscles to substitute for levator muscles in lifting the eyelid.

This can be carried out as a day case procedure and can be done either using a local or a general anaesthetic and your consultant will be able to advise what would be best for you.


Reconstruction

Ocular reconstruction and plastic surgery (oculoplastics) refers to surgical repairs to the eye socket (orbit), eyelids, tear ducts, and face for functional or aesthetic reasons. Our team offers expertise in the field of ocular reconstruction and ocular plastic surgery. There are several reasons that patients may need surgery of this nature:

  • thyroid eye disease.
  • tear duct obstruction and infection.
  • eyelid, orbital, and lacrimal trauma.
  • eyelid malpositions.
  • tumors affecting the eyelids and orbit.

Our team has experience in dealing with this range of conditions and would be in a position to advise you on the best course of action to remedy any problems you may have.


Pinguecula

A pinguecula (pronounced “pin-GWEK-yoo-lah”) is a yellowish, slightly raised thickening of the conjunctiva on the white part of the eye (sclera), close to the edge of the cornea.  Pingueculae typically occur on the part of the sclera that is between your eyelids and therefore exposed to the sun.

While pingueculae are more common in middle-aged or older people who spend a lot of time in the sun, they can also be found in younger people and even children, especially those who are often outdoors without protection such as sunglasses or hats.

Pinguecula treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are. Everyone with pingueculae can benefit from sun protection for their eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Lubricating eye drops may be prescribed for mild pingueculitis, to relieve dry eye irritation and foreign body sensation. Steroid eye drops or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be needed to relieve significant inflammation and swelling.

Surgical removal of the pinguecula may be considered in severe cases when it interferes with vision, contact lens wear or blinking.


Sty(e)

A stye develops when an oil gland at the edge of an eyelid becomes infected. Resembling a pimple on the eyelid, a stye can grow on the inside or outside of the lid. In most cases, this does not cause vision problems and can occur in people of any age.

With a stye, you may notice frequent watering in the affected eye, increased light sensitivity and a feeling like something is in your eye (eye doctors call this a “foreign body sensation”).

Most styes heal on their own within a few days. You can encourage this process by applying hot compresses for 10 to 15 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day, over the course of several days. This will relieve the pain and bring the stye to a head, much like a pimple. In most cases, the stye will then rupture, drain and heal without further intervention.

Never “pop” a stye like a pimple; allow it to rupture on its own.

If you have frequent or recurring styes, you may want to make a consultation to meet with us to review your condition. In most cases treatment is a course of medication, such as an antibiotic ointment or a hygiene program using pre-moistened eyelid cleaning pads and solutions for daily lid hygiene to reduce the risk of styes and blepharitis.


Floaters

Floaters are shapes, which people can see drifting across their vision. The exact form of these is very variable. They may appear as small dots or irregularly shaped strands.

The eye is filled by a jelly-like substance, the vitreous, and as this ages strands of a protein called collagen become visible within it. These strands swirl gently when the eye moves, giving rise to the perception of floaters.

Generally, people should not be concerned about seeing one or two floaters in their vision, particularly if they have been there for some time. A sudden increase in the number of floaters, especially if you also see white flashing lights, is seen with posterior vitreous detachment. If you see this, you should see an eye doctor urgently to ensure you are not getting a retinal detachment.

There are many other eye conditions, thankfully most are very rare. If you are at all concerned about your eyes or you are experiencing problems with your vision, you can contact us and we will be able to diagnose your problem and recommend the appropriate treatment.