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Everything You Need to Know About Corneal Arcus

Older gentleman undergoing eye exam at eye clinic

Everything You Need to Know About Corneal Arcus

Eyes are often considered the “window into the soul,” but in eye care they are more commonly used as a window into the patient’s overall health. Eyes can change in many ways as you get older, but some of these changes can indicate other health issues you otherwise might not notice.

Systemic diseases like diabetes and conditions like high blood pressure can all be detected during a comprehensive eye exam, but what can corneal arcus tell you about your health?

Today, we’re going to unpack this little white outline of your cornea and look at what this condition is, how common it is, and what it could mean to your overall health.

What is Corneal Arcus?

Corneal arcus, otherwise known as arcus senilis for seniors or arcus juvenilis for those under 40, is typically an age-related condition that creates a deposit of cholesterol, phospholipids, and triglycerides in an “arc” on either the top or bottom side of the iris, inside the cornea. Over time, the arc can grow to encircle the entire iris, creating a white, gray, blue, or yellowish “outline.”

Corneal arcus can indicate a variety of different health concerns, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. This connection was discovered as early as 1852, when pathologist Rudolf Virchow suggested that there was a connection between corneal arcus and atherosclerosis. This was a controversial topic of discussion for many years, but recent studies have shown that his hypothesis may be correct.

However, despite the physical appearance it may have on the eye, corneal arcus should not affect vision.

How Does it Develop?

This condition usually develops with age and can be found in nearly 60% of individuals between 50 and 60 years of age, but that percentage climbs to nearly 100% in patients 80 years old and older.

Corneal arcus is generally caused by lipid deposits developing on the cornea’s edge, typically related to a slowdown in lipid metabolism as the patient grows older. However, if it develops in a patient younger than 40, it could implicate a more serious situation.

How Does it Affect Your Vision and Health?

If corneal arcus develops as a result of aging, it is usually not a cause for concern. However, in individuals younger than 40, corneal arcus could indicate higher than normal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels could indicate an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

What Should You Do?

There is no cure for corneal arcus, as the condition itself isn’t actually harmful to your eyes or eye health. However, if you notice a white, yellow, gray, or blue ring or outline forming around your iris, you should visit your optometrist for an eye exam. Your optometrist can help you determine if your symptoms are benign or if they indicate a larger issue developing.

You may also be recommended to have your blood checked for abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglyceride. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. Some patients have decided to look into corneal tattooing to cover up the arc, but this is not recommended or encouraged by the medical community.

If you’ve noticed a symptom similar to corneal arcus in your eyes, please book an eye eye exam with us today and we can help you determine what’s best for you and your health!

A Comprehensive Eye Exam: What is the Doctor Checking For?

Side perspective of an eye doctor using a microscope and slit lamp to view a patients eye

A Comprehensive Eye Exam: What is the Doctor Checking For?

Most of us have been to an eye exam and spent time with an optometrist studying our vision. There are machines to check your eye pressure, and lights that illuminate your retina, and charts with big letters. But what are all these tests looking for?

An eye doctor conducts a comprehensive eye exam with a primary goal in mind- determining and evaluating your visual health. By studying the shape, strength, and acuity of your eyes, an optometrist can recommend prescriptions and provide preventative eye care solutions.

Let’s break down the different components of an eye exam and what it tells the doctor about your ocular health.

The First Rule of Prevention

The vast majority of eye conditions can be prevented or at least slowed down with an early diagnosis and effective eye care strategy. Many diseases result in negative eye changes that are irreversible and incurable if left unattended.

That’s why regular eye exams are so important- they give optometrists the ability to diagnose eye diseases early and to act quickly to protect your eyes.

How Often Should I Get My Eyes Checked?

Everyone should get their eyes examined once per year. This keeps your eye doctor on top of changes in your eyes. Even people with healthy vision are recommended to see the eye doctor annually.

If you have a medical history or other visual irregularities, your optometrist can build an exam schedule that best suits your own ocular needs.

Checking the Shape of Your Eye

In most people’s lifetimes, they will experience some form of shape-changing in their eyes. In fact, only 35% of American adults have 20/20 or “normal” vision. Changes in your eye shape affect how light is refracted through your eye and can lead to vision disorders.

Your visual acuity measurement (eye chart) will give your optometrist clues about the potential shape of your eye. They will use a slit lamp to examine the entirety of your eye and view each component individually. By identifying this eye shape, the doctor can confirm some common conditions that affect eyesight.

Nearsightedness

Also known as myopia, this condition is quite popular, affecting about 25% of the population. Nearsighted patients can see objects clearly at a close distance but struggle to see things far away.

This condition occurs when the eyeball is elongated and the cornea moves further away from the retina. Light is refracted incorrectly, blurring distant focus. Myopia is hereditary and is typically initially discovered in people under the age of 20.

Farsightedness

Hyperopia is essentially the opposite of nearsightedness. This is another refractive error, but instead due to the distance between the retina and cornea being too short. People with this disorder can see things far away quite clearly, but have trouble reading and focusing on close items.

Both myopia and hyperopia are common enough but can lead to more serious eye conditions when they go unnoticed. Your eye doctor checks for these mutations so that they can create a prescription that will correct these refractive errors.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism is another example of irregular curvature in the cornea or lens. Doctors check for a football-type shape of your eye which, again, refracts light towards the retina at an irregular angle.

By checking for these physical deformities in the shape of your eye, an optometrist has a baseline for refining a corrective eyeglass or contact lens prescription. These prescriptions are finetuned with further testing, like using a phoropter, a machine with multiple lens strengths. But microscope exams (slit lamp) let a doctor check for general shape abnormalities.

Side angle close up of an amber colored human eye with a front lens that is not perfectly round but shaped like a football

Looking for Eye Diseases

Many of the processes in an eye examination are designed to test for dangerous eye conditions. There are hundreds of known eye diseases, but a standard comprehensive eye exam can reliably check for some of the most common ocular ailments.

Diabetes

Diabetes is common enough that many optometrists specifically conduct diabetic eye exams. When diabetes exists, it makes the eye more vulnerable to other diseases.

After a standard eye exam, special drops will be applied to dilate your pupils. This allows your eye doctor to get a better view of the eye’s structure and to take digital images of the retina. In this process, they are checking for early stages of diabetic retinopathy, a condition that scars the eye and distorts vision.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to diseases that stem from damage to the optic nerve, often due to high pressure in the eye. When left unattended, glaucoma can lead to partial or total vision loss.

Eye doctors check for this disease with a field vision test. This non-invasive procedure tests peripheral vision strength, which can often indicate the presence of glaucoma. Tonometry is another test used to check for glaucoma, measuring for eye pressure outside the normal range.

Age-related Macular Degeneration

A common eye disease that develops as we age is known as age-related macular degeneration, (AMD). This disease is characterized by changes to the macula and central vision loss.

By checking for this disease annually, optometrists can identify the first signs of AMD and take steps to prevent its progress. This includes changes in diet and a focus on increased nutrition. Checking for this disease is done with an OCT or fluorescein angiography.

Cataracts

Another common condition that occurs in older patients is the presence of cataracts. Cataracts are the blurring or loss of clarity in our optic lenses. This condition can almost always be treated with corrective eyewear or cataract surgery.

The eye exam process highlights the severity of your cataracts and gives optometrists the information for building a game plan. Checking for this condition is the first step in getting your vision back to full health. An eye lens can’t be replaced unless we know there is something wrong.

Evaluating Health With An Eye Exam

Eye doctors check for these diseases because saving your vision is dependent on diagnosing eye disease early. With an early diagnosis, it is much easier to manage and treat eye diseases. When a disease has progressed to a point that symptoms are obvious to a patient, there are usually already significant vision damages.

Along with checking for serious eye diseases, eye exams provide doctors the chance to look for color blindness, dry eye, and other conditions that may not be life-threatening, but deplete your vision. Monitoring your ocular well-being and understanding the shape of your eye are essential pillars of your visual health.

Optometrists use eye tests to develop accurate prescriptions which help you see better. Most eye exams take less than 60 minutes. What a small sacrifice for happy vision and the peace of mind in knowing that your eye doctor is keeping your visual health in check.

May is Healthy Vision Month

What does that mean for you? It means that now is the time to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

While these are one of the exams we may often let fall by the wayside, they are extremely important to maintain our eye health. Comprehensive eye exams serve several purposes. During these exams, pupils, the circular black area in the center of the eye where light enters, are widened with eye drops or viewed without dilation through a special camera. This allows your Eye Doctor to check for vision problems and eye diseases, verify what stage of diseases your eyes may be in, and helps determine if you need glasses, contacts or other treatments.

Comprehensive eye exams are crucial for all ages, here’s why:

Pediatric exams test for visual acuity, lazy eye, color vision, ocular health, and more. These are extremely important to test for the school years ahead.

For older children and teenagers, myopia (nearsightedness) is one of the biggest concerns that comprehensive eye exams detect. Myopia affects the eye’s ability to see distant images clearly. It is important to identify and treat early with glasses or contacts as children and teens begin to learn in larger spaces, play sports, and drive.

Adult exams are recommended at least every two years, or as recommended by your eye care specialist. Exams for adults are necessary to catch eye conditions that can cause vision loss and even lead to blindness. Some of these conditions are cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.

There are several other conditions that comprehensive eye exams can expose that may not be found without a visit to your optometrist.

Outside of eye exams, here are 5 ways you can help protect your vision:

  1. Healthy eating. You know this! Healthy eating helps every part of your body. For your eyes, make sure to add dark, leafy greens and seafood that is high in omega-3 fatty acids to your plate. A great excuse to treat yourself to sushi! We’re adding a spicy sake maki roll to our cart… for delivery.
  2. Protective eyewear. Whether you’re chopping wood for the bonfire pit, mowing the lawn, painting your bedroom walls, or riding your motorcycle around town, protective eyewear is key. Blue-light protection glasses should also be considered to protect your eyes from all the time spent in front of computer screens.
  3. Sunglasses. Much like protective eyewear, sunglasses help protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation delivered by sun. Not all sunglasses provide the same level of protection. Let us help you pick the best pair!
  4. Clean hands. Wash your hands before putting your contacts in and before taking your contacts out, simply to avoid infection.
  5. Stop smoking. Smoking is known to cause several diseases, but it can also lead to vision loss. It can increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and more. Mark your calendar for your comprehensive eye exam and mark it as the day to stop smoking.

May is Healthy Vision Month Image.jpeg

Happy healthy vision month! Get your appointment in the books with us today.

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