Although there are other risk factors involved, in general it is thought that general aging and exposure to the sun are two of the main reasons for the development of this melanoma - even more of a reason to ensure that you wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection whenever you are in the sun and encourage those around you to do the same. Another option is to have your regular eyeglass lenses tinted with an anti-reflective coating or tinting to help deflect the suns rays from yours eyes.
Other risk factors for this form of melanoma involve being white skinned; having a fair complexion; having blue or green eyes and lastly, being able to tan - all of which are also risk factors for cancer in general and skin cancer in particular.
Glaucoma can also be a result of the melanoma and one could either have symptoms or not. The symptoms could be blurred vision, red eyes, nausea and/or eye pain.
Unfortunately, in most cases, the signs of this disease are found by your eye doctor during your routine optical exam or if you have gone for a check up because you feel like you need a new eyeglasses prescription. However, if one were observant, it would be pretty easy to spot either a dark spot on the iris, blurred vision, a change in the shape of the pupil or a significant change in vision. It's important to note though, that sometimes, there are no early warning signs at all.
If you are particularly worried about this intraocular melanoma, there are specific tests for diagnosis:
The first and most common is an eye exam where your eye is dilated with medicated eye drops so that the doctor can look right through to the retina. The doctor can also use photographs to track whether there are changes from visit to visit. Secondly, an ultrasound exam can be quite effective but is more invasive. Eye drops numb the eye and then a small probe is placed gently on the surface of the eye to send and receive sound waves which create a picture of the inside of the eye. This is known as a sonogram.
Another examination uses a small magnifying lens and light to examine the inside of the back of the eye; while another test examines of the iris, cornea, lens, and ciliary body with a light placed on either the upper or lower lid. Lastly, there is a test where an orange dye is injected into a blood vessel in the arm and as it travels through blood vessels of the eye, a special camera takes pictures of the retina and choroid to detect any blockage or leakage.
If small tumors are discovered early, the chances for recovery - both of health and vision - are excellent. However, it all depends on the type of melanoma cells; the size of the actual tumor; which part of the eye the tumor is situated in; whether the tumor has spread; the patients age and overall health and whether the tumor is a first time or recurring tumor.
One it has been discovered that you do, indeed, have intraocular melanoma, further tests will be carried out to determine whether the melanoma has spread. This is called 'staging' (determining the stage of the disease). Only by knowing the exact stage of the disease can proper treatment be designed and can there be full hope for a full recovery.