Melanoma can affect various structures of the eye, such as the white part and the pupil.
Many things can cause pain or discomfort in the eye, including a single grain of sand, dust or an eyelash.
To the layperson, it would seem that a melanoma tumor that’s growing on or inside the eye would also cause pain or a foreign body sensation. But this is usually not the case.
“Eye melanoma does not typically cause pain,” says Yuna Rapoport, MD, a board certified ophthalmologist with Manhattan Eye in NYC.
“If it is on the external part of the eye (on the conjunctiva) and is large enough, the extra growth can cause discomfort.”
In short, you cannot assume you don’t have ocular melanoma just because you don’t feel any pain.
If you’ve recently noticed a brown or tan spot or tiny smudge on the white of your eye that won’t go away – you must see an ophthalmologist.
If you see any kind of growing spot or mole-like growth anywhere else on your eye, such as the iris – even if it’s painless – you need to get it checked out.
On the other hand, if you are experiencing some kind of discomfort involving your eye, such as itching, a scratchy feeling or a foreign body sensation, it’s extremely unlikely that this is melanoma.
However, uncommonly, ocular melanoma can cause soreness or pressure involving the eye.
Nevertheless, if your eye feels uncomfortable in some way — especially if accompanied by excess tearing, discharge, redness, swelling or changes in vision — and the discomfort persists, it’s time to see a doctor.