Arcus Senilis: Understanding Age-Related Eye Changes and Health Risks

Arcus senilis, a common eye condition often referred to as corneal arcus, presents as a distinctive ring-like deposit around the cornea. This condition primarily affects individuals in their 50s and beyond, with the ring appearing as a white or grayish band due to the accumulation of lipids.

Arcus Senilis Vs Arcus Juvenilis

The presence of colored rings around the iris that manifest in childhood or early adulthood is known as arcus juvenilis. Unlike arcus senilis, which typically affects older individuals, arcus juvenilis can be a sign of a genetic disorder called familial hyperlipidemia that leads to elevated cholesterol levels.

Familial hyperlipidemia predisposes individuals to early-onset cardiovascular issues, making the identification of elevated cholesterol levels crucial for recognizing potential health risks.

How Does Arcus Senilis Manifest

The hallmark sign of arcus senilis is the appearance of a ring-like structure around the cornea.

This ring can vary in color from white to gray and is typically seen in the outer edge of the cornea. While it may not cause any symptoms or vision problems, its presence can prompt further investigation into an individual’s overall health status.

Arcus Senilis vs. Cataracts

Cataracts involve the clouding of the lens in the eye due to changes in protein structure, leading to blurred vision as they obstruct light passage and may progress over time to impair vision completely. Cataracts are typically associated with aging, causing gradual vision deterioration, although they can also develop prematurely in response to certain diseases or trauma.

Arcus senilis on the other hand specifically entails lipid deposits around the cornea.

This differentiation is vital for healthcare providers to accurately diagnose and manage these ocular conditions, ensuring appropriate treatment strategies are implemented based on the specific nature of each condition.

While arcus senilis doesn’t usually require treatment, cataract surgery can help improve vision in cases where it is affected by cataracts. This proactive approach not only enhances visual clarity but also contributes to a better quality of life.


Diagnosing arcus senilis involves a comprehensive eye examination. During the diagnostic process, the following steps are typically taken:

  • Visual Inspection: During the examination, the ophthalmologist may administer specific eye drops to dilate the individual’s pupil. This dilation enables the physician to inspect the cornea using a slit-lamp microscope to identify the characteristic ring associated with arcus senilis.
  • Evaluation: The eye doctor assesses the appearance of the ring-like opacity around the cornea, noting its color, shape, and location.
  • Medical History: Healthcare providers may inquire about the patient’s medical history, including any family history of hyperlipidemia or cardiovascular issues.


In most cases, arcus senilis does not require specific treatment as it does not typically affect vision or ocular health.

However, if the patient is younger and a primary suspect of familial hyperlipidemia, the ophtalmologist may direct them to their primary care doctor, an internist, or a cardiologist. Lifestyle modifications and medical interventions may be recommended to manage underlying lipid abnormalities and reduce cardiovascular risks associated with familial hyperlipidemia.

Final Considerations

Arcus senilis is in most cases a normal change related to aging. If you’re under 50 and notice an abnormal formation around your iris, it’s important to reach out to your ophthalmologist for a proper eye health assessment.