Conjunctival tumours

Conjunctival tumours

What are conjunctival tumours?

They are tumours that appear in the conjunctiva, which is the transparent mucous membrane that covers the eyeball from the corneal edge (limbus) to the conjunctival fornix. These tumours can be benign or malignant, pigmented or non-pigmented, and, in some cases, can threaten the patient’s vision and life. They, therefore, require early diagnosis in order for them to be treated appropriately.

What causes them?

Some conjunctival tumours are directly related to excessive exposure to the sun. Others, such as squamous neoplasia, have been found to be related to infection by human papillomavirus and HIV. Some melanocytic tumours (pigmented) have been linked to smoking.

How can they be prevented?

Since the sun is a risk factor, the use of glasses with filters can help prevent some tumours.

Although most conjunctival tumours are benign, some of them can be premalignant (precursors to malignancy). Undergoing regular ophthalmic examinations or visiting an ophthalmologist as soon as a new lesion appears are the best ways of detecting them early.

Since malignant lesions can recur over time, either in the same place, nearby or in a different location, once treated, they should be regularly monitored.

Conjunctival tumours are generally located in easily visible areas and produce a change in the colour or texture of an area of the conjunctiva (either by the presence of a dark pigment or blood vessels) or appear as lumps or lesions.

They can occasionally be located in places where they can initially go unnoticed, before being diagnosed during a routine eye examination.

Some can increase in size and cause eye irritation and discomfort. Some of the symptoms associated with conjunctival tumours include:

  • Foreign body sensation
  • Tearing
  • Eye irritation

The treatment of conjunctival tumours depends on their type, location and size. Many options exist, depending on each case.

Most symptomatic benign tumours can be managed with regular monitoring. If they are symptomatic, they can be treated.

Malignant tumours require treatment, which can include small incision surgery, cryotherapy (freezing treatment), topical chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy.

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