The heart of the matter – earlobes

By June Shannon Heart News   |   25th Jun 2018

Do earlobes predict heart trouble?

At the Irish Heart Foundation, we aim to provide accurate and evidence-based information on heart disease and stroke to help you make informed decisions about your health. One of the questions we get asked a lot is whether there is a link between earlobe creases and heart disease?

First described in 1973 by Dr Sanders Frank, Frank’s sign is a diagonal crease on the earlobe which a number of studies have suggested may be associated with heart disease.

One study published in the BMJ in 2015 reviewed a total of 558 patients (402 males and 156 females) aged 36 to 91 years who had undergone a coronary angiography (a test to examine the coronary arteries).

Studies have also suggested a link between Frank’s sign and the risk of stroke

.

The patients were classified as not having Frank’s sign, having a crease on one ear and having it on both ears. The results revealed that those with Frank’s sign on both ears tended to be older men with more severe coronary artery atherosclerosis (plaques on the inner lining of the arteries) which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. More recently studies have also suggested a link between Frank’s sign and the risk of stroke.

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation explained that Frank’s sign was a diagonal crease in the earlobe that runs backward from the tragus (small bump at the entrance to the ear) at a 45-degree angle across the lobule to the rear edge of the earlobe and has been associated with coronary artery disease in some small studies.

While Dr Brown said Frank’s sign was postulated to indicate premature aging and loss of dermal and vascular elastic fibres, she said it had limited sensitivity.

She added it was possible that it could be a potential marker for vascular disease in people under 60 years of age. However much larger studies would be needed to confirm whether this is a consistent finding and if it is helpful in identifying those at risk, she added.

 

There is a need for a lot more research in this area

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation

Therefore, in conclusion, although a number of studies have suggested an association between this ear lobe crease and coronary artery disease, and it may be a marker of underlying heart disease, there is a need for a lot more research in this area before it can be proven.

Furthermore, the traditional risk factors for vascular disease are well described so it remains important to get your blood pressure checked, your cholesterol and blood sugar checked, reduce alcohol intake and stop smoking if you smoke as well as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

 

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