What causes eyeball spots?

Eyeball spots can be caused by a number of conditions or diseases ranging from minor trauma to cancer. Because of the variety of underlying causes of eyeball spots and the similarity of many of the other symptoms associated with these underlying causes, you should consult your health care professional to determine the cause and get treatment if necessary for your eyeball spots.

Nonserious causes of eyeball spots

Eyeball spots may be caused by underlying conditions or diseases that typically do not cause permanent damage to the eye or loss of vision including:

  • Horner-Trantas dots (small white or yellowish dots near the edge of the colored part of the eye caused by long-standing eye allergies)
  • Nevus (brown spot similar to a freckle on the eye)
  • Pinguecula (small, benign growth of the lining of the eye that appear as a bump on the eye surface)
  • Pterygium (a noncancerous white growth on the lining of the eye that is near the cornea)
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding in the white part of your eye)

Serious causes of eyeball spots

In some cases, eyeball spots may be a symptom of a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated by a medical professional. These include:

  • Corneal ulcers
  • Ocular melanoma (type of eye cancer)
  • Retinoblastoma (cancer of the retina)
  • Uveitis and iritis (inflammation of structures inside the eye)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of eyeball spots

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your eyeball spots including:

  • When did you first notice your eyeball spots?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • Have there been any changes in the color or distribution of your eyeball spots?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Where on the eye are the spots located?
  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms with your eyeball spots?

What are the potential complications of eyeball spots?

Eyeball spots themselves usually do not present serious complications, although they may cause an itchy or gritting feeling in the eye. In some cases, eyeball spots may be caused by an underlying condition, such as cancer or inflammation inside the eye that can lead to vision-threatening or life-threatening complications. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)
  • Loss of vision or changes in vision
  • Retinal detachment (detachment of the light-sensing layer inside your eye from the blood vessels that provide it with oxygen and nutrients)
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


Eye cancer (melanoma and lymphoma). American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/EyeCancer/DetailedGuide/eye-cancer-what-is-eye-cancer. Accessed April 27, 2011.

Scleritis. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001998/. Accessed April 27, 2011.


What are eyeball spots?

The term eyeball spots generally refers to any discoloration on the eye that is visible to other people. It does not include spots that you sometimes see in your own vision, such as floaters, but only those spots that can be seen on the surface of your eye.... Read more about eyeball spotsintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with eyeball spots?

Eyeball spots may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.... Read more about eyeball spotssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision

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