About 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, so everyone should have regular dermatological checkups of the whole body. As we age, it’s common to develop growths on the eyelid, but most are benign — in fact, there are over 50 different types. But even benign tumors can be bothersome, unsightly, and even become irritated.
One of the most common eyelid conditions is a chalazion, or stye, which occurs due to clogged eyelid oil glands. If the clogged glands don’t get the signal that the “front door is closed” and to stop making additional oil, the lesion can become severely inflamed and may need to be drained. Draining is typically done from inside the eyelid, whenever possible. To avoid a scar, some patients will need multiple treatments to fully resolve this condition.
Seborrheic keratosis is another common type of benign tumor. While this growth can range in color from pale to dark, it tends to look like a wad of gum that has been stuck on the skin. Seborrheic keratosis can look similar to aggressive tumors like melanoma, but it does not have cancerous potential. A doctor can freeze off seborrheic keratosis with liquid nitrogen on other areas of the body, but that process is too dangerous to use near the eye. Instead, treatment includes a superficial excision.
Xanthelasma commonly forms on the upper eyelid but can occasionally appear on the lower eyelids as well. Made up of scavenger cells that eat cholesterol, these growths initially present as small yellow dots and later become larger yellow patches. It’s best to remove them before they become too large because the resultant small excisional scar can help inhibit regrowth. Some studies suggest that xanthelasma can be associated with a higher risk factor for coronary heart disease, even if the patient’s cholesterol levels are normal. So, patients with this condition should always make their primary care physician aware of this lesion and obtain a further cardiac workup if indicated.
Another common type of benign tumor is actinic keratosis, which occurs from sun damage and causes red splotches on the skin. These growths can turn into a squamous cell carcinoma and should always be removed when they occur on the eyelids.
Molluscum contagiosum is a viral-related growth that occurs on the edge of the eyelid. When the viral particles fall into the eye, a patient can present with chronic conjunctivitis. In these cases, the conjunctivitis usually resolves immediately after this tumor is removal.
With so many different types of tumors, we don’t expect you to identify them yourself. If you have a growth around your eye that’s bothersome or increasing in size, it’s worth having it excised — even if it has existed for years. At Eye Plastic Associates, we have a minor procedure room where Dr. Scott can remove most small eyelid tumors on the same day as your appointment.
For tumors on other areas of the face, please see your dermatologist to get their opinion on the need for treatment.
Remember that most skin cancers are very treatable, but early discovery is essential.
If you or one of your family members has concerns about an eye growth, give us a call today.