CANCER can affect various different parts of your body, but it might not have occurred to you that it could affect your peepers.
Though very rare, there are about 850 cases of eye cancer diagnosed in the UK every year.
The risk of the cancer affecting your peepers increases as you get older, according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK).
It said almost 25 per cent of people diagnosed with eye cancer are aged 75 or older.
The exception to this is a type called retinoblastoma, that usually affects children under the age of five.
Eye cancer can crop up both inside and outside the eye, as well as on the eyelids.
People with suffering from it won’t always notice obvious signs.
In fact, eye cancer is most often picked up in routine eye tests.
But there are some symptoms you might be able to spot yourself.
According to CRUK, possible signs of eye cancer include:
- Bulging of one eye
- Complete or partial loss of sight
- Pain in or around the eye – though this is rare with eye cancer
- A pale raised lump on the surface of the eye – either on the the thin, clear membrane that protects the white part inside the eyelids, called the conjunctiva, or the cornea, the transparent part that covers your pupil
- Blurred vision
- change in the appearance of the eye
- lump on the eyelids or around the eye
- Seeing spots or flashes of light or wiggly lines, often known as floaters, in front of your eyes
- Loss of peripheral vision – you can see what is straight ahead clearly, but not what is at the sides
- A dark spot on the coloured part of the eye – the iris – that is getting bigger
- Eye irritation, red eye or chronic conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is also known as pink-eye.
It can give your peepers aor red tinge, cause swelling, make your eye watery or itchy and give you the persistent feeling there’s something in it.
It usually clears up on its own, but you should see a doctor if you still have conjunctivitis symptoms after two weeks
When should I see a doctor?
Since eye cancer is so rare, it’s likely that eye conditions other than cancer might be the cause of the above symptoms.
But they’re still worth investigating, so you should flag them with your GP or an optometrist.
The early you pick up eye cancer, the easier it will be to treat it.
CRUK recommends writing down your symptoms, when they started, and how often you get them.
It also suggested taking note of anything that makes your symptoms worse or better.
How to protect your peepers
There are some factors that might increase your risk of eye cancer, according to CRUK.
Having blue, grey or green eyes may mean you’re more at risk of developing eye melanoma, the charity said.
Having large numbers of moles can also raise your risk, it added.
Meanwhile, exposure to artificial UV radiation – which is emitted in sunbeds – can up our risk of eye melanoma, as well as squamous cell carcinoma of the eye.
And the human papilloma virus (HPV) – which is most known fro causing cervical cancer – may cause squamous cell carcinoma of the eye in combination with other factors.
The Skin Cancer Foundation suggested a series of simple things you can do protect your eyes.
- Wear sunglasses year-round whenever you are out in the sun – choose a pair that block 99 to 100 per cent of both UVA and UVB light
- Wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim to protect your face and eyes
- Slather on SPF – including in the winter
- Take extra care near water, snow and sand, as 80 per cent or more of the sun’s rays reflect off of these surfaces
- Be altitude-aware, as UV intensity increases with altitude – be sure to protect your peepers while skiing, snowboarding and hiking
- Seek shade whenever possible, especially during times when the sun is most intense
Sarah Carter is a health and wellness expert residing in the UK. With a background in healthcare, she offers evidence-based advice on fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being, promoting healthier living for readers.