Arcus senilis is a white, gray, or blue arc or ring that develops around the edge of the cornea. It typically appears as an arc that affects the top and bottom of the cornea.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), arcus senilis is harmless. However, if the ring appears in young adults, it may sometimes be a sign of high cholesterol.

This article discusses what arcus senilis is. It also looks at the causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options available.

A 2021 article states that arcus senilis is white, blue, or grey rings around the cornea, which is the clear, dome-like part of the eye. They form in front of the iris, which is the colored part of the eye. The rings are made up of fatty deposits called lipids.

Arcus senilis is also known as corneal arcus.

If the rings appear in young adults and children, healthcare professionals refer to this as arcus juvenilis.

Although the appearance of arcus senilis may be concerning, they do not affect a person’s vision and are not a sign of a serious medical condition.

However, contacting a doctor will ensure that there are no hidden causes that could lead to further health complications if treatment is required.

Arcus senilis most commonly appears as people age. The AAO states that nearly all people will eventually develop the condition, and that it appears to be more common in men.

The authors of the 2021 article state that it is more common in people of African and Asian descent.

The link between arcus senilis and high cholesterol in older people is a subject of debate among medical professionals. Some experts believe that there is a link between the condition and high cholesterol, which can lead to cardiovascular problems.

Arcus senilis occurs due to fat deposits, or lipids, forming in the outer part of the cornea. Fats in the blood come from fatty foods in a person’s diet. The liver also produces them. Cholesterol is one type of fat that appears in the blood.

As someone ages, their blood vessels widen and allow more cholesterol and other fats to build up in the eye. If arcus senilis appears in people under the age of 40, a healthcare professional may order tests to check for high cholesterol.

The occurrence of arcus senilis does not mean that someone has high cholesterol. High cholesterol could be due to diet, lifestyle, or genetic conditions.

Possible complications

Arcus senilis does not have any complications unless it is a sign of high cholesterol.

High levels of cholesterol in a person’s blood can cause significant problems, such as coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease.

A person with arcus senilis may notice a white, gray, or blue circle or arc around the cornea of the eye.

The circle or arc will have a sharp outer border but a blurred inner border. If someone has an arc, the lines could grow to form a complete circle in front of the iris.

People with arcus senilis are unlikely to have any other symptoms, and their vision will remain unaffected.

A cataract is the clouding of the lens in the eye due to changes in protein structure. The lens focuses light rays on the retina. As a cataract forms, it prevents light from passing through and causes blurred vision. Cataracts may grow over time and completely impede vision.

Cataracts are generally age-related, although some may develop early in life or as a response to disease or trauma, and some babies may be born with them.

Arcus senilis is not a vision problem. However, it could indicate other health conditions.

To diagnose arcus senilis, a doctor will perform an eye examination. The eye doctor will examine the front of the eye with a microscope called a slit lamp.

The examination may also involve placing special eye drops into the person’s eye that widen the pupil. These drops allow the doctor to inspect the blood vessels at the back of the eye for signs of disease.

The doctor will check the thickness of the vessels for increased levels of fat deposits. They will also look for signs of atherosclerosis, which is a condition where arteries become clogged with fatty substances.

If a doctor suspects both arcus senilis and atherosclerosis, they will usually refer people to their primary care doctor, an internist, or a cardiologist.

A blood test will determine whether someone has high cholesterol. If they do, a doctor may prescribe medication or advise on a suitable diet and exercise program to lower the cholesterol in their blood.

Medications used to lower levels of cholesterol include:

  • Statin drugs: These block a substance the liver uses to make cholesterol. Possible prescriptions include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pravastatin (Pravachol), and rosuvastatin (Crestor).
  • Bile acid-binding resins: These prompt the liver to use cholesterol to produce more digestive substances known as bile acids. Doing so lowers the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Possible prescriptions include cholestyramine (Prevalite), colesevelam (Welchol), and colestipol (Colestid).
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: These can reduce the amount of cholesterol the body absorbs. One possible prescription is ezetimibe (Zetia).

Once it appears, it will not fade or disappear. However, treatment for arcus senilis is not necessary.

If arcus senilis is a sign of high cholesterol, a doctor may recommend a diet that is low in saturated fats and high in fruit, vegetables, and fiber. Increased exercise and quitting smoking can also help.

A 2021 article states that the condition does not result in complications and does not affect a person’s vision.

However, if they appear in someone is under 40 years of age, they should contact a doctor to ensure that they do not have high cholesterol.

Arcus senilis is a common condition that develops as people age.

It occurs when deposits of fat surround the cornea of the eye. Older adults are more prone to arcus senilis because blood vessels in the eye open with age, allowing more cholesterol to enter.

If it develops in those under the age of 40, a doctor may recommend a blood test to check cholesterol levels. The coloring in the eye itself is not a cause for concern at any age and does not cause vision problems.