Eyeball Spots

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

What are eyeball spots?

The term eyeball spots generally refers to any discoloration on the surface of 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.

Eyeball spots may be caused by a wide variety of conditions or diseases, which may be serious or harmless. The spots themselves may appear in different colors, including brown, pink, red, white or yellow, depending on the underlying cause.

In most cases, the formation of eyeball spots is caused by simple, harmless events. For example, a powerful sneeze can break a tiny, superficial blood vessel and create a red spot. However, in some cases eyeball spots can indicate a serious underlying disease, including cancer or sight-threatening inflammation inside the eye. Seek immediate medical care if you have a loss of vision, changes in vision, sudden increase in the number and frequency of floating spots in your vision, or if you see flashing lights.

Seek prompt medical care if you develop eyeball spots, especially those that occur with no obvious cause.

What other symptoms might occur with eyeball spots?

Eyeball spots may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Other eye or vision symptoms that may occur along with eyeball spots

Eyeball spots may accompany other symptoms affecting the eye or vision including:

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, eyeball spots may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have eyeball spots along with other serious symptoms including:

  • Eye pain

  • Loss of vision or changes in vision

  • Sudden increase in the number or frequency of floating objects or spots in your vision

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:

  • Axenfeld nerve loop (resembles small freckle)

  • Eyedrops (crystallized drug deposition)

  • 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, may harbor cysts)

  • Pinguecula (small, yellowish-pink benign growth of the moist coating 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)

  • Racial melanosis (brown-tan irregularly shaped patches)

  • Scleral thinning (exposes underlying dark uveal pigment)

  • Senile calcinosis (grey patches at 3 and 9 o’clock)

  • 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

  • Conjunctival melanoma (type of eye cancer, only involves one eye)

  • Conjunctival squamous carcinoma

  • Precancerous patches of sun damage (grey-white scaly lump)

  • Osteogenesis imperfecta (blue sclera)

  • 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:

  • Chronic eye discomfort or pain

  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)

  • Loss of vision or changes in vision

  • Scarring and membrane formation

  • Spread of cancer

  • Spread of infection

Was this helpful?
  1. What is eye cancer? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/EyeCancer/DetailedGuide/eye-cancer-what-is-eye-cancer.
  2. Scleritis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001998/.
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 10
View All Eye Health Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.