You’ve noticed freckles on your skin and didn’t think twice about them. But what about a freckle on your eye? Is it something you should be concerned about?
Called a nevus (or nevi, in the plural), an eye freckle looks like just that: a small spot on the surface of your eye. Although you might be alarmed when you first see it, it’s good to know that it’s most likely completely harmless and nothing to worry about.
What are eye freckles?
An eye freckle is very similar to a mole on your skin or a freckle. And similar to both moles and freckles, a nevus can be brown, yellow or gray. Cells called melanocytes produce melanin, which gives color to your skin and to your eyes, and when these cells lump together, an eye freckle is the result.
Depending on where a nevus is on your eye, it will have a different name:
- A conjunctival nevus is the name for an eye freckle found on the surface of your eye.
- A choroidal nevus is found in the back of the eye.
- An iris nevus is found on your iris, or the colored part of your eye.
Where do eye freckles come from?
Often nevi (especially iris nevi) result from sun exposure, just like freckles do for some people. You may be at risk if you have a light complexion and light-colored eyes (blue or green).
Babies might be born with conjunctival nevi, or this type might also form during childhood.
Are eye freckles something to worry about?
For the most part, eye nevi aren’t serious and won’t impact your vision, but it’s a good idea to be aware of potential problems and to pay attention to any nevi you have as part of your routine eye care.
Here are a few things you should do:
Protect your eyes from excessive sun exposure. Because exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is a risk factor for developing nevi, wear sunglasses anytime you’re outside. This is a good habit to protect your eyesight, as well.
Have regular eye exams. Choroidal nevi are found in a layer of tissue under the retina called the choroid, and can’t be seen by the naked eye. During your eye exam, your eye doctor will check for choroidal and other nevi and keep track of their condition.
Have your eye doctor watch for changes. Nevi that form later in life can become cancerous, and your eye doctor can check for changes in nevus size and shape when you have your eyes examined. Choroidal nevi can develop into choroidal melanoma, and can leak fluid, which can lead to retinal detachment. Although this is rare, it can be a vision- and life-altering situation.
Can a nevus be removed?
Because nevi don’t affect your vision or cause health problems, they usually don’t need to be removed. In fact, removal could do more damage than good.
However, if a nevus becomes cancerous, your ophthalmologist may recommend it be removed with radiation therapy or surgery. For the most part, nevi are best left right where they are.
Do you have an eye freckle or other eye condition that you would like to have an eye doctor check out? Contact us to set up an appointment today. We’re here to help you take good care of your eyes and protect your vision for life.