Yellow patches above or around the eyelid, which are relatively common among older people, have long been recognized as a sign of cholesterol. But now, researchers are saying that xanthelasmata may be an indicator for risk of heart attack.
In fact, of those with the raised patches studied over 33 years, nearly 50 percent were found to be more likely to suffer a heart attack.
BBC has more on the study out of Denmark:
The research team at the Herlev Hospital in Denmark started following 12,745 people in the 1970s.
At the start of the study, 4.4% of patients had xanthelasmata.
Thirty three years later, 1,872 had had a heart attack, 3,699 had developed heart disease and 8,507 had died - and the data showed that those with the yellow markings around the eyes were at greatest risk.
Those with the markings were 48% more likely to have a heart attack, 39% more likely to have developed heart disease and 14% more likely to have died during the study.
According to the National Institute of Health, xanthoma is a skin condition in which certain fats build up under the surface of the skin. They can appear all over the body, not just around the eye.
The study, led by Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen at the University of Copenhagen, found that those with xanthelasmata were likely to deposit cholesterol around the body and have a one-in-five chance of developing heart disease. The authors note that most people see a dermatologist to cosmetically remove the xanthelasmata but are concerned they're unaware of the implications of the patch:
"Some of these people may not have been managed according to their increased risk of cardiovascular disease."
The study also found that white or grey rings around the eye's cornea (arcus corneae) are not linked to an increased risk.
This story has been updated for clarity.