Everything one needs to know about the Grey White Ring of the Eye

Most people are aware of eye care and risks associated with over-exposure to blue light on laptops or phone screens and long-hours reading work. Having a blue light glass, or taking short breaks from long-duration work and regular visits to clinics prevent a lot of issues associated with eye health. However, the food that is taken in everyday diet plays a major part in general body health as well as for very crucial eye health. For instance, overconsumption of fatty substances in the diet may cause grey white of the eye and affect the cornea due to cholesterol disposition. Therefore, proper diet and medication are absolutely necessary to maintain eyes in healthy condition.

What is the grey-white of the eye?

The cornea, a transparent part of the eye, helps in passing the light into the eyes and forms the clear outer layer at the front. It also gives protection to the iris and pupils by covering them. Sometimes a grey-white ring develops around the crucial edge of the cornea. Most people cannot identify the disease at the very preliminary stage when it forms an arc-like structure. It does not become very prominent until the arc on the top and bottom of the cornea eventually grows and forms a ring. The condition in medical terms is known as arcus senilis. Although researchers have found no sincere harm associated with these lipid dispositions in the colored part of the eye, however, it is considered to be an alarming sign of high body cholesterol in adults.

Who is more likely to get this?

The grey white of the eye can be found in around 25-30% of the world population and normally affects older people over the age of 80. The prevalence of the symptom is more in males than in females. The disease is broadly associated with the American population of African origin and other ethnic groups around the world are less susceptible. Additionally, young adults and children can sometimes develop the ring around the cornea. This condition, however, is termed differently as arcus juveniles.

Causes of Arcus Senilis

Cholesterol and triglycerides are the two major types of fat that most people intake in their diet. When the proportion of meat and dairy products in the diet increases it eventually enhances the lipid proportion in our body. Sometimes, the liver produces fats by breaking down other dietary substances.

The grey white of the eye condition arises when lipid dispositions form a ring-like structure in the cornea. However, it does not necessarily address high body cholesterol rather the symptom is mainly age-associated.

What happens is with age blood vessels in the eyes become more open allowing cholesterol and other fats to leak into the cornea and deposit there. Additionally, people with other corneal dystrophy are more susceptible to developing grey-white of the eye. However, when the condition arises in children and young adults it is generally associated with elevated fat levels in the body.


The symptoms associated with the grey white of the eye are-

  • Formation of a grey-white arc around the upper or lower edge of the cornea at the primary stage.
  • This arc has a sharp outer border and a fuzzy inner border.
  • The arc eventually grows and forms a complete circle around the iris, the colored part of the eye.
  • Vision is not affected.
  • No other symptom is found.

How different is arcus senilis from cataract?

From a layman’s viewpoint, cataract and arcus senilis may look similar as both are age-related symptoms and form a greyish-white structure over the eyes. However, these two are radically different in terms of how these affect the eyes and associated complications.

Cataract affects the lens. Lens generally focuses light rays on the retina and that is how vision is created. Due to changes in protein structure, a cloud-like structure appears over the lens that prevents light from passing through the lens into the retina. Thus, cataracts cause blurred vision or sometimes impede vision completely.

In contrast, arcus senilis affects the cornea but does not impede vision.


Once the grey-white arc or ring of the eye is identified, one needs to consult doctors for medication and further treatments to obtain more clear eyes. There are several diagnostic procedures an expert or a doctor can opt for. Some of these are discussed here-

First of all, an eye examination is performed to observe the front of the eye using a microscope or slit lamp.

For better understanding, eye doctors also use eye drops that widen the pupil. This provides clear views of the blood vessels at the back of the eye and investigates the signs of disease thoroughly.

As the grey-white arc may also develop as an effect of fat deposition throughout the body, doctors investigate the thickness of the blood vessels as well as look for signs of other lipid deposition in arteries as signs of atherosclerosis. On the basis of this observation further medication is prescribed. If both the arcus senilis and atherosclerosis are suspected, then eye doctors generally refer patients to cardiologists or may prescribe medications along with a suitable diet and exercise program which lowers body cholesterol levels.

Treatment of grey-white arc

The grey-white of the eye generally does not disappear if it has arisen in older age and the treatment is not necessary as it does not affect the vision.

However, in children and young adults, this may be correlated with high blood cholesterol. A diet with low saturated fat, fruits, vegetables, and regular exercise is recommended by doctors along with some important drugs which include

Statin blocks a particular enzyme in the liver that synthesizes cholesterol.

Bile acid-binding resins are used to produce bile acids more by the liver using excess cholesterol. The possible medications are cholestyramine, colesevelam, etc.

Some cholesterol-absorbing inhibitors are also prescribed.


The grey white of the eye becomes detectable only when it is a fully formed ring around the cornea as no vision impediment is there. People generally do not require any specific treatment but one always needs to be aware of other body effects that may arise from high blood cholesterol. Treatment of arcus senilis due to high blood cholesterol is absolutely necessary to obtain clear eyes as well as monitor the body fat levels through a change in lifestyle.

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