Yellow eyelid marks are ‘early warning sign of heart disease’


Well-Known Member
4 Jun 2011
Yellow marking in the skin around the eyes can be a sign of heart disease, according to scientists.

A study of almost 13,000 people found people with the patches, known as xanthelasmata, were more likely have a heart attack or die within 10 years.

The spots are deposits of cholesterol which are soft and painless. They don’t interfere with vision and people often get them treated at a dermatologist.

The yellow markings (seen just above and below the corner of the eye) are deposits of cholesterol

However, people with xanthelasma should go to their doctor as well, according to the research published online in the British Medical Journal.

The heart disease link was most acute in men aged between 70 and 79. Those with xanthelasmata were 12 per cent more at risk than others without the condition. The corresponding risk for women in this group was eight per cent.

However, the raised yellow patches around the eyelids was a more reliable sign of heart disease in women because of their lower overall risk.

Professor Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, of the University of Copenhagen, said: ‘The prevalence of xanthelasmata was similar in women and men.

‘However, presence of xanthelasmata was a slightly better predictor of heart attack and heart disease in women than in men, and in those aged under 55 years compared with those aged 55 and over.

‘This might be explained by the fact that male sex and age are both well known risk factors for heart attack and heart disease, so the presence of xanthelasmata just adds to this predetermined risk in men and in older people.

‘In women, who have a smaller inherent risk of developing heart attack and heart disease, presence of xanthelasmata has a correspondingly larger predictive value.’


Yellow flat plaques over the upper or lower eyelids, most often near the inner part of the eye.

They are more common in women and men in their 40s and 50s.

Around half of the cases are linked with higher than average cholesterol levels.

Patients with the yellow marks should have their plasma lipid (fat) levels checked. If they are high doctors will recommend lifestyle changes and possibly prescribe lipid lowering drugs.

The lesions should not cause any physical discomfort and can be left alone unless the patient wishes them removed for cosmetic reasons. However, 40 per cent will recur after treatment.

They said their results ‘clearly establish for the first time that people with xanthelasmata have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.’

The study also found white or grey rings around the cornea, known medically as arcus corneae, are not linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Previous research has established that both xanthelasmata and arcus corneae are deposits of cholesterol. But about half of those who have either or both conditions will not test positively for high cholesterol in a blood test.

Prof Tybjaerg-Hansen’s team followed 12,745 individuals from 1976 until May 2009 who had all participated in the Copenhagen City Heart Study. They were aged between 20 and 93 and were free of heart disease when the project began.

In all age groups for both men and women, the risk of having a heart attack, developing heart disease or dying within a 10-year period increased in individuals with xanthelasmata.

This increased risk is independent of other well-known risk factors such as gender, smoking, obesity or high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The researchers said the presence of xanthelasmata could help clinicians when they diagnose heart disease and associated conditions.

And they said that their findings ‘could be of particular value in societies where access to laboratory facilities and thus lipid profile measurement is difficult.’