Ocular tumor is a general term that includes the various types of tumors (abnormal mass of tissue) that can develop in different parts of the eye. An ocular tumor occurs when cells in or around the eye start to divide and multiply uncontrollably. Unfortunately, what triggers this abnormal growth of cells in some people continues to be a mystery.
In order to understand an ocular tumor, it is important to know the different parts of the eye:
- Eye ball: It is the main part of the eye and, mainly consists of a jelly-like material called vitreous humor.
- Orbit: It is the bony cavity of the skull that houses the eye ball and includes muscles and nerves attached to the eye.
- Adnexal structures: These include accessory structures such as eyelids and tear glands.
Ocular tumors/cancers are broadly classified into two types: Primary and secondary. Of the two, secondary ocular tumors are more common. A secondary ocular tumor is a tumor that starts somewhere else in the body, and later metastasizes (spreads) to the eye.
A primary ocular tumor is the one that develops in any of the above 3 parts of the eye. More specifically, a cancer that begins in the eye ball is called a primary intraocular cancer. Primary intraocular cancers include: the more frequent melanoma (develops in the color-producing cells of the eye) and the relatively less common lymphoma. Yet another intraocular cancer is retinoblastoma (cancer that develops in the retinal cells of the eye ball)-a rare type of childhood cancer.
Orbital tumors consist of tumors in and around the orbital region. This includes the bone around the orbit, muscles, nerves and blood vessels associated with the eye. The predominant symptom of an orbital tumor is bulging of the eye called proptosis.
The different types of orbital tumors are explained below:
- Neurofibromas and Schwannomas: These tumors arise from specialized cells called Schwann cells located on sheaths enclosing the nerves, except the optic nerve.
- Optic glioma: A type of tumor that arises from glial cells-the supporting cells in the brain.
- Orbital meningioma: A type of tumor that arises from the meninges (the protective covering surrounding the brain and optic nerves).
- Other orbital tumors: These include orbital tumors that arise from the bone (Osteomas and ossifying fibromas) or skin around the eye. Also, there are tumors which spread to the orbit from other parts of the body (metastasize).
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