What is Corneal Arcus?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2018
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Corneal arcus is an eye condition characterized by the formation of a ring around the edge of the cornea in both eyes. It usually develops symmetrically and may start out as an incomplete ring. Depending on a patient's age at the time of onset, this condition can be a cause for concern or a normal part of the aging process. It is usually diagnosed and evaluated by an ophthalmologist, a physician who focuses on providing eye care.

The rings are formed of lipids that have infiltrated the cornea, and it can be yellow, white, or gray in color. People are often born with ones that fade over time. In older adults, generally people over the age of 60, they are very common. Initially, the center of the cornea will be clear and vision will be relatively unobscured. Over time, this can change, with the vision becoming cloudy. In both of these cases, the arcus is considered normal.

In younger adults, this ring is usually a sign that something is going wrong with the patient's lipid metabolism. A blood test will show that lipid levels are unusually high, and the patient may have atherosclerosis or other diseases. In these patients, it is known as corneal arcus juvenilis, and it is a cause for concern because it does not form naturally in people at this age.


If a patient develops a corneal arcus, the ophthalmologist may refer the patient to another specialist to have lipid levels evaluated. If they are high, the patient can be given medications to help get them down, and he or she is usually also encouraged to make dietary changes and to engage in more exercise. These should help naturally lower lipid levels in addition to reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications. Because people with high lipid levels in their blood are at increase risk for heart disease and other problems, it is critical to lower them and to keep them at a healthy level.

In patients who do not receive treatment for high lipids, there is a risk of heart attack and death caused by slow narrowing of the arteries. Patients can also develop strokes caused by narrowing of the arteries or blood clots, both of which can limit the supply of blood to the brain. An ischemic stroke can occur where the brain tissue experiences damage because it is not getting enough oxygen.


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Post 7

I read this article because it seems that my little 5 year old brother has this condition. If it is true, why have the doctors prescribed eye drops which don't work at all? Hopefully, he doesn't have this.

Post 6

I have corneal arcus and I am just 26 years old. Please tell me what I should do.

Post 5

For the past week I've woken up with this ring around my iris, like maybe 5 millimeters out. The rest of my eye looks horrible like grey or red/bloodshot, but the ring is a lighter color, like whiteish grey.

I have seen it this past week but I have also been horribly tired, working long hours. I just had some blood tests for unrelated reasons and they said nothing about lipid levels when getting my results. Can this come on quickly? Or could it be simply a sunken eye look from being exhausted?

Post 4

My husband has a blue ring around his brown eye. He is African American and 62 years old. His blood work is excellent, and he has 10 people in his family with diabetes but not him. He exercises and is in good health except for a knee problem. Can people have this condition without heart trouble?

Post 3

No, you do not need to be concerned about a darker colored ring or black ring around the iris, this is normal pigmentation. Also, for your information, optometrists are also eye doctors that can diagnosis this condition, not only just ophthalmologists!

Post 2

if the lipids are treated and lowered the cholesterol, would the gray ring -deposits- disappear afterward?

Post 1

I have just noticed about five minutes ago that I have pitch black rings around them instead of gray or any other color. Is that the same thing? I am only sixteen so I would like to know if I should be concerned.

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