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 Orbital Tumor

What causes orbital tumors?
What are the symptoms of an orbital tumor?
How are orbital tumors treated?

An orbital tumor is any tumor that occurs within the orbit of the eye. The orbit is a bony housing in the skull about 2 inches deep that provides protection to the entire eyeball except the front surface. It is lined by the orbital bones and contains the eyeball, its muscles, blood supply, nerve supply, and fat.

Tumors may develop in any of the tissues surrounding the eyeball and may also invade the orbit from the sinuses, brain, or nasal cavity, or it may metastasize (spread) from other areas of the body. Orbital tumors can affect adults and children. Fortunately, most are benign.

What causes orbital tumors?

Most childhood orbital tumors are benign and are the result of developmental abnormalities. Common orbital tumors in children are dermoids (cysts of the lining of the bone) and hemangiomas (blood vessel tumors). Malignant tumors are unusual in children, but any rapidly growing mass should be cause for concern. Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common malignant tumor affecting children, and it usually occurs between the ages of 7 and 8. This particular tumor grows rapidly and can be life threatening if it grows into the brain or spreads into the lungs.

The most common orbital tumors in adults are also blood vessel tumors, including hemangioma, lumphangioma, and arteriovenous malformation. Tumors of the nerves, fat, and surrounding sinuses occur less often. Lymphomas are the most frequently occurring malignant orbital tumors in adults. Metastic tumors most frequently arise from the breast and prostate, while squamous and basal cell cancer can invade the orbit from surrounding skin and sinus cavities.

What are the symptoms of an orbital tumor?

Symptoms of an orbital tumor may include protrusion of the eyeball (proptosis), pain, loss of vision, double vision, redness, swelling of the eyelids, or an obvious mass. Some tumors are visible and therefore easily identified, while others may not exhibit symptoms until they are large enough to displace the eyeball. Prominence of the eyes is not necessarily the result of a tumor, but may result from inflammation such as that caused by Graves' thyroid disease. In children, parents may first notice a droopy eyelid or slight protrusion of the eye.

Orbital tumors are most frequently diagnosed with either a CAT scan or MRI. If either of those tests look suspicious, a biopsy may be performed.

How are orbital tumors treated?

Treatment of orbital tumors varies depending on the size, location, and type. Some orbital tumors require no treatment, while others are best treated medically or with the use of radiation therapy. Still others may need to be totally removed by either an orbital surgeon or a neurosurgeon, depending on the particular case. After removal, additional radiation or chemotherapy may be required. Surgery has become much safer because CAT scans and MRI testing can help pinpoint the location and size of the tumor.

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