Eye Freckles: Should I Worry About Them?

Freckles in the face have exploded into a beauty trend, but should the same hype apply to freckles appearing in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, as well?

Believe it or not, eye freckles are not uncommon. These beauty marks may grow right on the surface or at the back of the eyes. You may even have one without you knowing since some eye freckles are only discovered after an eye exam.

If you spot any flat marking on your eyes, there’s a high chance it’s a nevus or freckle. But should you worry about it? Find out here.

What are Eye Freckles?

Eye freckles or nevi (also called a nevus, if singular) are just like your typical moles and freckles that appear on the skin. The only difference is that nevi appear on the eyes instead of the skin. But overall, they are just colored markings that form when cells called melanocytes clump together. 

Similar to moles and skin freckles, nevi come in different shapes and colors, although they are most commonly seen in yellow, gray, or brown. They can grow and appear in other parts of the eye. You can classify eye freckles into the following:

  • Conjunctival nevus

This refers to the type of eye freckles that appear on the conjunctiva or the clear, thin tissue covering the white part of the eye. Due to its location, conjunctival nevus is pretty easy to spot. 

  • Iris freckle

This is the most common type of eye freckle, and approximately 60% of people are said to have them. As the name implies, this type of freckle appears in the iris or the colored part of the eye. 

  • Iris nevus

This also grows in the iris but is bigger in size compared to an iris freckle. While the latter typically rests on the eye’s surface, an iris nevus penetrates deeper and can affect the shape of the iris.

  • Choroidal nevus

This is the type of eye freckle that is not easy to spot since it grows behind the eyes, specifically in a layer of tissue called the choroid under the retina. A person who has a choroidal nevus may only discover he or she has the same after an eye exam with the help of an ophthalmologist. 

What causes eye freckles?

As mentioned earlier, eye freckles form similar to how moles and skin freckles. Usually, the cells that produce melanin, called melanocytes, are evenly distributed throughout the body. They are responsible for the pigment of our hair, eyes, and skin. However, there are instances where these special cells clump together. When they do, they form colored markings that appear on the body’s surface, creating moles or freckles.

Some studies suggest that increased exposure to the sun can induce the formation of freckles. Genetics also has a role in the development of these pigmented marks, as people who have fair skin are found more likely to develop freckles than those with darker skin color.

In a 2017 study, researchers also observed that iris freckles are more common among older people with a history of sunburns.

Are eye freckles dangerous?

Generally, eye freckles are not a cause of concern. They are just like your typical moles and skin freckles and, therefore, normally harmless. However, similar to the latter, eye freckles may also develop into a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Hence, it’s essential to still keep an eye on them.

Melanoma is invasive and can spread to other parts of the body. It is considered the most dangerous type of skin cancer. However, the disease is highly curable when diagnosed and treated early. It’s therefore important to watch out for any signs that may indicate the presence of melanoma.

The ABCDE rule is a good technique to spot possible signs of melanoma.

  • Asymmetry. – cancerous moles and freckles are often asymmetrical. The shape of one side may not match the shape of the other half.
  • Border. – the edges of cancerous moles and freckles are usually irregular.
  • Color. – melanoma growths often display more than one shade or color.
  • Diameter. – cancerous moles and freckles are relatively larger in size, usually over 6 millimeters (mm).
  • Evolving. – when melanoma develops in an existing freckle or mole, you may notice changes in the size, shape, or color of that freckle or mole.

Do you need treatment for your eye freckles?

Eye freckles don’t usually need treatment, especially if they’re painless and don’t affect your vision. Your doctor will only recommend a treatment if they find any complication involving your freckles, such as when they develop into ocular melanoma. In such cases, the doctor may conduct surgery or treat them through laser or radiation.

Inborn eye nevi often don’t often pose a concern, but pigments that form later on may have higher risks of developing into melanoma, so it’s important to keep an eye on newly-formed spots and freckles in your eyes or any part of the body.

When should you see a doctor?

It’s best to see an ophthalmologist to check your eye freckles regularly, preferably every three to six months. 

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s also better to schedule an appointment as soon as possible:

  • Eye pain
  • Increase in the size of your freckle
  • Increase in the thickness of your freckle
  • Changes in the color or shape of your eye freckle
  • Changes in your vision
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Discomfort in the eyes

Talk to an Eye Care Specialist today!

Still worried about your eye freckles? A consultation with an eye care expert will help secure whether these supposed beauty marks should cause you concern. Our specialized team at Arizona Retinal Specialists can provide you with the best patient eye care through quality diagnostic and medical treatments.

Schedule an appointment with us today. For faster service, you may call us at 623 – 474 – 3937 (EYES)


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