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The eyes have it - clues to heart disease found

By Colin Ricketts - 17 Sep 2011 11:44:0 GMT
The eyes have it - clues to heart disease found

A Danish professor has found that heart problems can be predicted by the condition of the skin around the eyes.

Professor Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen at the University of Copenhagen led the research which found that yellow raised patches of skin around the eyelids (called xanthelasmata) are a good indicator of cardiac problems like heart attacks, stroke, thickening of the arteries and heart disease. Her research is published in the BMJ.

The yellow patches seen in xanthelasmata are build ups of cholesterol but the researchers found that another cholesterol deposit - arcus corneae - seen in the form of grey rings around the cornea in the eye, are not a good indicator of future heart problems.

While it's been known for some time that both conditions represented cholesterol build ups, suffering either condition will not necessarily be reflected in high levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Previous study established that both xanthelasmata and arcus corneae are in fact deposits of cholesterol. However, when their blood was tested, approximately 50% of those who have one or both conditions will not test positively for high cholesterol.

The researchers looked at nearly 13,000 people aged from 20 to 93 who were not heart disease sufferers at the start of the survey began back in 1976-78. At the start of the process 4.4 percent of the subjects had xanthelasmata with 24.8 percent showing the eye rings of arcus corneae.

The researchers followed the heart health of all the participants and found that xanthelasmata was associated with a higher risk of heart problems, whether or not the sufferer showed other danger signs like smoking or obesity.

Those at the greatest risk were old men, aged from 70 to 79. The researchers believe that spotting these little yellow patches, which are often simply treated by skin specialists, can become an important diagnostic measure for doctors, particularly in less developed countries.

Top Image Credit: © Linnea