Did you know that having blue eyes puts you at increased risk of eye cancers and certain other eye diseases? But just because you have light-colored eyes or other known risk factors doesn't mean that you will develop eye problems. Still, it's important to know the risk factors and what precautionary steps, including getting regular eye exams, you can take to identify potential problems in the early stages.
Although melanoma of the eye is a rare form of cancer, having light-colored eyes, such as blue, gray, or green eyes, rather than brown eyes may put you at higher risk of developing eye melanomas or other eye cancers. Less pigment in your eyes makes it easier for ultraviolet rays from the sun to penetrate the eyes. But like other cancers, early detection of eye cancer leads to early treatment and helps prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of your body.
Knowing the Risk Factors
Risk factors other than eye color and exposure to UV light contribute to the development of eye melanomas:
Gender – eye cancer occurs more often in men than in women
Age – although eye cancers can occur at any age, eye melanomas are more common in older individuals
Race/Ethnicity – Caucasians are more likely to develop eye cancer than African Americans or Americans of Asian descent
Dysplastic nevus syndrome – this inherited skin disorder that causes abnormal moles increases the risk of malignant skin and eye cancers
Ocular melanocytosis – increased pigmentation or brown spots on the uvea, which includes the iris, or colored part of the eye, makes individuals more susceptible to eye cancer
BAP1 tumor suppressor gene – this inherited gene mutation puts people at higher risk of developing melanomas of the eye and certain other cancers
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Blue eyes also increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration. Research suggests that because more light can get through to the eyes than if you had dark-colored eyes, exposure to the sun over time may cause macular degeneration. The deterioration of light-sensitive cells in the eyes can lead to the progressive loss of vision.
Knowing the Risk Factors
Like eye cancers, risk factors other than light-colored eyes increase the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration:
Age – the risk increases as people get older, especially after age 65
Gender – women are more likely than men to develop age-related eye disease, basically because they tend to live longer
Hyperopia – being extremely farsighted puts individuals at higher risk
Genetics – a family history of the disease increases the risk
Health risks – uncontrolled high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease puts individuals at increased risk
Because detecting eye disease early can help prevent vision loss, it's important to have regular eye exams. The American Optometric Association recommends that adults from the ages of 18 to 60 schedule an exam every two years.
If you have known risk factors for eye cancer, macular degeneration, or other eye disease, you should have an annual eye exam or be seen even more frequently if your eye care professional recommends it. If you are older than age 61, you should see your eye doctor yearly or more often if you are at risk.
No matter what your age, you should wear UV-protected sunglasses when outdoors in the sunlight. Protecting your eyes from harmful ultraviolet radiation helps reduce your risk of developing eye cancer or other eye diseases related to UV damage to the eye.
For more information, contact Richard G Langellotti, OD & Associates or a similar organization.Share
14 June 2016
Hi, I'm Deena, and as I neared middle age, I noticed that my eyesight wasn't as good as it used to be. I first started out needing reading glasses to read the small print in magazines, and then a few months later, I had to put them on to see the computer screen clearly. I knew by then that my eyes were getting worse and that I needed to do something quickly. I made an appointment with the optometrist and the doctor gave me an eye exam. Even though my sight wasn't as bad as I had feared, I still needed prescription glasses. I love my new glasses because I can actually see now. I have put together a lot of information about eye problems, eye tests and even various types of eye wear so that others don't wait as long as I did to see the eye doctor.