If one of your eyes has been sticking out or bulging lately, this could be a sign of a brain tumor, eye tumor or sinus tumor.

When an eye protrudes, this is called proptosis.

Before you panic, you’ll first want to make sure whether or not the one eye is, indeed, protruding more than the other.

“If one eyelid is drooping, it will make that eye appear smaller than the other eye and should be evaluated by an eye doctor,” says Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, eye surgeon and founder of The Boxer Wachler Vision Institute, and developer of the Holcomb C3-R® procedure which treats a degenerative eye disease.

A drooping eyelid just might create the illusion that the other eye is sticking out more.

But if you truly see a new-onset protrusion, and you swear that there is no eyelid drooping in the other eye, then you probably have one-sided proptosis.

“If one eye truly is sticking out, it should be evaluated by an eye doctor, as a tumor could cause it,” says Dr. Boxer Wachler.

“Either way, you shouldn’t immediately worry and think you have a brain tumor, but don’t ignore it – do get it checked out to be sure.”

Many different kinds of cancer – including metastases from a distant primary site – can encroach upon the orbit and displace it forward.

Some Cancers that Can Cause One Eye to Stick Out More

• Adenoid cystic carcinoma

• Lacrimal gland tumor (the gland that drains tears)

• Leukemia

• Meningioma (type of brain tumor)

• Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

• Optic nerve cancer

• Squamous cell carcinoma

• Various sinus area (paranasal) tumors

The most common primary cancers that may spread to the orbit and affect orbital placement are breast and lung.

Non-Malignant Causes of One Eye Protruding

• Acoustic neuroma (benign brain tumor)

• Dermoid cyst

• Graves’ disease (thyroid eye disease)

• Hemangioma (concentration of very tiny blood vessels)

• Histiocytoma (skin tumor)

• Inflamed orbital tissue

• Internal bleeding

• Mucus cyst

There are hundreds of different kinds of tumors (masses) that can cause one eye to stick out, but most of these are benign.

If cancer is causing the protruding eye, the appearance will just get worse and worse – without treatment — and it’s highly likely that before the bulging becomes severe, there will be other symptoms.

These are quite numerous and include a blocked or bloody nose, excess tearing of the affected eye, facial swelling and reduced sense of smell.

However, symptoms of benign causes of proptosis can mimic those of malignant causes, and a benign cause can also cause considerable orbital displacement.

The diagnosis of malignant cases is often delayed.

There really is no verdict as far as the most common age group affected by cancer that displaces the eyeball.

However, all age groups can be affected including very young children and the elderly.

There is also inconsistency among various studies as to the most common cause of proptosis.

It’s only fair to point out that the Indian Journal of Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery (July 2013) says in its conclusion:

What Kind of Doctor to See for a Protruding Eye

The symptom may be showing with the eye, but the cause may be located in the paranasal area. However, the cause can also be an issue affecting the eye structure.

You should make an appointment with both an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat, or “ENT”) and an ophthalmologist.

When Tina Smith’s son, Alfie, was four, she began noticing that his right eye was beginning to stick out.

A general practitioner only prescribed eye drops. The next medical professional whom Smith took her son to was an optician.

That led to a referral for a more thorough exam, which led to an MRI which showed a meningioma.

Up to that point, Smith kept hearing from various medical professionals that the situation was nothing to worry about.

It’s amazing how people will literally knock each other down when the doors open on Black Friday, yet move in slow motion when they or a child have a worrisome symptom.

It is perfectly okay to push for an MRI very early on in the pursuit of a diagnosis. There is absolutely NO way cancer can be ruled out without an imaging study!

dr. boxer wachler
Dr. Boxer Wachler has delivered hundreds of lectures on eye surgery to thousands of eye surgeons from around the world, and is a pioneer in keratoconus treatment.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Roman Zaiets
orbitalmd.com/top-5-causes-of-bulging-eyes one eye sticks out more, protrudes