What You Need to Know About Arcus Senilis

Medically Reviewed By Katherine E. Duncan, MD
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Arcus senilis, or corneal arcus, is an eye condition in which a ring forms around your cornea. The ring consists of lipid deposits that enter your eye through widened blood vessels. While arcus senilis is usually not a cause for concern, it may be a symptom of an underlying condition. Arcus senilis becomes more common as people — particularly males — get older. In people younger than 50, it may be a symptom of high cholesterol or a cardiovascular condition.

Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for arcus senilis.

What are the causes of arcus senilis?

A woman making a ring with her fingers
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Arcus senilis occurs when lipids, or fatty substances, accumulate in your cornea and form rings. These lipids enter the outer part of your cornea — the clear outer layer of your eye — through blood vessels that have widened with age. The lipid deposits can contain phospholipids, triglycerides, lipoproteins, and cholesterol.

When this condition occurs in people younger than 50, healthcare professionals call it arcus juvenilis. It may be a result of high cholesterol or dyslipidemia (atypical lipid levels).

What are the symptoms of arcus senilis?

Arcus senilis causes white, gray, or blue rings to form around your cornea. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), these rings typically start as arcs around the top and bottom areas of the cornea. With time, the arcs will connect to form a complete ring.

The condition is usually bilateral, meaning it affects both eyes. If it develops in only one eye, it may indicate that an underlying health condition is affecting blood flow to your eyes.

Arcus senilis alone does not affect your vision or cause other symptoms. However, you may experience other symptoms if you have any underlying conditions.

How do doctors diagnose arcus senilis?

The AAO states that doctors can typically diagnose arcus senilis with a visual examination. In some cases, a doctor may use a slit-lamp microscope, or biomicroscope.

When diagnosing the condition in younger adults with suspected high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, doctors may draw blood to assess lipid levels. Imaging tests can also help doctors assess heart health and check for any blood flow issues.

What are the treatments for arcus senilis?

Arcus senilis is typically a benign condition in older adults and does not require treatment. However, you may need treatment if a doctor has given you a diagnosis of an underlying condition.

If you have high cholesterol, you may need medications such as statins to manage your cholesterol levels. Additionally, your doctor may recommend making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

You can also manage dyslipidemia with medications, a low fat diet, and exercise.

What is the outlook for people with arcus senilis?

The outlook for people with arcus senilis is generally good. The condition is harmless and does not typically indicate any other health conditions in older adults.

Contact a healthcare professional if you are younger than 50 and have rings around your corneas.

What are some potential complications of arcus senilis?

Arcus senilis itself does not cause complications. It will not affect your vision or cause other symptoms.

However, if an underlying condition is causing arcus senilis, that condition may lead to complications. For example, people with high cholesterol may have an increased risk of heart disease and cardiac events.

Can you prevent arcus senilis?

There is currently no way to prevent arcus senilis that develops as a result of typical aging. However, younger adults who have a family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease may be able to prevent the condition with medications, a healthy diet, and exercise.

Other frequently asked questions

Here are a few other commonly asked questions about arcus senilis. Dr. Katherine Duncan has reviewed the answers.

What is the difference between arcus senilis and cataracts?

Arcus senilis affects the outer part of your cornea. The rings that form consist of lipid deposits and do not affect your vision.

Cataracts occur when your eye lens becomes clouded. They develop when proteins in your eye break down, making your vision blurry or hazy.

Can you get rid of arcus senilis?

There is currently no way to get rid of arcus senilis. The rings do not cause symptoms, so no treatment is necessary.

Does arcus senilis always indicate high cholesterol?

No, arcus senilis does not always indicate high cholesterol. In older adults, the condition is common and benign. Arcus senilis may sometimes indicate high cholesterol in people younger than 50.

Does arcus senilis affect your vision?

No, arcus senilis does not affect your vision or cause any discomfort.

Summary

Arcus senilis is an eye condition in which lipid deposits form rings around your cornea. It is common in older adults and does not cause any vision loss or other symptoms.

In some cases, people younger than 50 may develop corneal rings as a result of underlying health conditions that affect their lipid levels.

Doctors generally diagnose arcus senilis with a visual examination, sometimes with the help of a slit-lamp microscope.

Older adults with arcus senilis generally do not need any treatment for the condition. People who have high cholesterol may need to use medications, make dietary changes, and exercise regularly to manage their symptoms.

Consult a healthcare professional if you have rings around your corneas. They can help you determine the cause and decide on any necessary treatment.

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Medical Reviewer: Katherine E. Duncan, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 14
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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.
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  4. Turbert, D. (2019). What is arcus senilis? https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-arcus-senilis