Non-cancerous tumours of the eye

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the eye is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Non-cancerous tumours are not usually life-threatening.

Non-cancerous tumours of the eye share many of the same signs and symptoms. This includes a bulging (protrusion) of the eye that is usually painless, redness, changes to vision or eye irritation, such as burning, itching, swelling or feeling like something is in the eye.

The following are some common non-cancerous tumours of the eye.

Choroidal hemangioma

A choroidal hemangioma is a slow-growing tumour that develops in the blood vessels of the choroid (a layer in the wall of the eye). It is the most common type of non-cancerous eye tumour in adults.

Most choroidal hemangiomas don’t need to be treated right away. They are usually managed with regular follow-up with an eye care specialist to look for any changes. Treatment is started if fluid from the hemangioma leaks into the eye and causes problems with vision. Treatment options include laser surgery, photodynamic therapy and radiation therapy.

Eye moles

Eye moles, like skin moles, develop when melanocytes (the cells that give the eyes, skin and hair their colour) grow together in a group. This can appear as an abnormal brown spot on or in the eye. Eye moles (also called nevi) most often develop on the choroid, iris and conjunctiva.

Most eye moles don’t need to be treated right away unless there are signs that they could be cancerous. They are usually managed with regular follow-up with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to look for any changes.

Cavernous hemangioma

A cavernous hemangioma is a non-cancerous tumour that develops in blood vessels of the eye socket (orbit) behind the eye. It may cause a painless bulging of the eye (called proptosis). Surgery is sometimes used to treat a cavernous hemangioma, but some smaller tumours don’t need to be removed.

Expert review and references

  • Cohen AJ. Cavernous Hemangioma. 2015:
  • Eye Cancer Network. Choroidal Hemangioma. 2016:
  • Folberg R . The Eye. Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, (eds.). Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2015: 29: 1319-1344.
  • Martini FH, Timmons MJ, Tallitsch RB. Human Anatomy. 7th ed. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings; 2012.
  • Schefler AC, Abramson DH, Dunkel IJ, McCormick B . Neoplasms of the eye. Hong WK, Bast RC Jr, Hait WN, et al (eds.). Holland Frei Cancer Medicine. 8th ed. People's Medical Publishing House; 2010: 72: 904-914.

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