The orbit is the cavity where the eye sits and is comprised of boney walls, fat, muscles, lacrimal gland, nerves, and blood vessels. A tumor can arise from any of these structures. Occassionally, a tumor may develop in the brain or sinuses and invade the orbit. In patients with cancer elsewhere, such as breast cancer or prostate cancer, tumors may metastasize (spread) to the orbit.
An orbital tumor can occur in children as well as adults. Most orbital tumors are benign masses but can compromise the function of the eye muscles or optic nerve. The most common orbital tumors in children are dermoids and hemangiomas. The most common malignant orbital tumor in childhood is a rhabdomyosarcoma, which typically presents with rapid protrusion of the eye.
A bulging eye in childhood can also occur due to an orbital cellulitis, which is an infection in the soft tissues. A thorough examination of the surrounding sinuses is important because orbital cellulitis is usually caused by a sinus infection that has crossed the thin boney walls into the orbit.
There are many more causes of a bulging eye (proptosis) in adults. Orbital tumors can certainly cause this. The most common benign orbital tumors in adults include lipoma (fatty tumor), hemangioma or lymphangioma (blood vessel tumors), schwannoma, meningioma, or glioma (nerve tumors). Tumors from the surrounding sinuses, brain, or even skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and sebaceous carcinoma) can also invade the orbit. The most common malignancy of the orbit in an adult is lymphoma. Other malignant tumors can arise from the lacrimal gland and are less common.
A bulging or prominent eye as well as an asymmetric appearance may prompt a thorough work-up to rule out an orbital tumor. The work-up includes several measurements of the eye function, pupil function, eye motility, and the globe position. Imaging studies of the orbit are also done, such as a CT scan or MRI, to evaluate the tissues behind and around the eye. If a tumor is present, a biopsy may be required to diagnose the tumor. Further treatment may be required depending on the nature of the tumor.
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Our doctor is a highly trained oculoplastic surgeon who frequently operates in the orbit and understands the interaction of the delicate structures surrounding the eye. He has access to the most advanced surgical techniques and equipment to manage any orbital process. Contact our office today for a consultation.