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Noncancerous and cancerous tumors may develop in the eyes. Less commonly, cancers arising elsewhere in the body can spread to the eyes. Eye tumors can affect any of the eye structures, including the optic nerve, the retina, the iris and the eye muscles. Symptoms of eye tumors vary according to the structures involved. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye tumors proves essential in minimizing the risk for permanent loss of vision and potentially life-threatening complications.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

White or Red Pupil

The development of a white or red pupil--the normally black area at the center of the eye--is a hallmark symptom of retinoblastoma, a cancerous eye tumor 1. Retinoblastoma is the most prevalent form of tumor within the eye among children, reports Dr. Paul Finger on the patient information website EyeCancerNetwork 1. These tumors typically occur in children younger than age 5 and may be present at birth. Rarely, children develop retinoblastomas in both eyes.

Eye Enlargement and Bulging

Types of Growths on the Eye

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Growth of an eye tumor may cause eyeball enlargement and eye bulging. Melanoma of the eye may cause eye bulging, accompanied by redness and irritation, notes the National Library of Medicine's online medical encyclopedia MedlinePlus 2. Eye melanoma is the most prevalent form of eye tumor among adults 2. Retinoblastoma in children may also cause eye enlargement and bulging 1. Orbital meningioma, a tumor of the covering of the optic nerve, is another possible tumor-related cause of eye bulging 3.

Visual Distortions

Certain types of eye tumors can cause visual distortions. Choroidal hemangioma, a noncancerous blood vessel tumor within the eye, can cause the appearance of flashing lights, reports Dr. Paul Finger on EyeCancerNetwork 14.


Eye Symptoms of a Brain Tumor

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Tumors can distort the interior structures of the eye causing a loss of clarity in near images, or farsightedness. Choroidal hemangiomas and spread of chronic lymphocytic leukemia to the eye can provoke this symptom, according to the informational website EyeCancerNetwork 145.

Vision Loss

Vision loss may be a symptom of a developing eye tumor. Choroidal osteoma, a benign tumor of the eye, commonly presents as a gradual loss of vision in one eye, reports Dr. Glen Bianchi of the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. Other types of eye tumors, including malignant melanomas and orbital meningiomas, may also present with vision loss.

Eyelid Drooping

Orbital rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor of the muscles responsible for eye movement, may present with a drooping eyelid. EyeCancerNetwork notes that orbital rhabdomyosarcoma most commonly presents in children but may also occur in adults 1.

Growth on Eyeball

Squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva--the tissue lining the eyelids and covering the white area of the eyeball--typically presents as a flat, opaque growth on the surface of the eye. In a 2007 study published by the "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews," Drs. Stephen Gichuhi and James Irlam report that the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva is increasing due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation, human papillomavirus infections and HIV/AIDS.