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  • What Is Arcus Senilis?

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    Reviewed By Odalys Mendoza, MD
    Apr. 26, 2019

    Arcus senilis is the name for a white, light grey, or blueish ring around the edge of the cornea. It is made of fatty substances (called lipids), mostly cholesterol. The cornea is usually clear and allows the color of your iris beneath it to show through. This ring can make it seem as though your iris is two different colors, but in fact it is a discoloration in the cornea.

    Arcus senilis usually begins as a short arc of color along the top and bottom of the cornea. Eventually these may connect and make a complete ring around the cornea.

    Diagram of Cornea, Iris, Lens and Pupil in the eye

    Who Is Likely to Get Arcus Senilis?

    Arcus senilis is common in people as they age. If these rings begin to appear around middle age or later, they are usually nothing to worry about. Almost everyone will eventually get arcus senilis. It is most common in men and in African Americans.

    If you have a family history of high cholesterol you are more likely to have arcus senilis. But the appearance of arcus senilis in middle age or later does not necessarily mean you have high cholesterol.

    Rings Around the Iris before Middle Age

    Colored rings around the iris that begin to appear in childhood or early adulthood is called arcus juvenilis. Unlike arcus senilis, arcus juvenilis can be the sign of high cholesterol or other health problems. Children or young adults with these rings should see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam.

    Babies can be born with a bluish hue to their sclera (the white of the eye) that can look like a ring along the edge of the iris. Their thin sclera allows structures below to show through. As babies gets older and their sclera matures, that coloration disappears. This is not arcus juvenilis and is not a concern.

    How Is Arcus Senilis Diagnosed and Treated?

    An ophthalmologist can simply look at your eye to diagnose arcus senilis. Sometimes they will use a slit-lamp microscope as well. Arcus senilis has no symptoms. Arcus senilis does not cause vision problems, so no treatment is necessary.