look in the mirror and see a lot of extra pounds—particularly if they’re
settling around your middle—you may be at a higher risk of getting heart
disease. But what could a diagonal crease in your earlobe tell you?
The Ear Crease and Heart Disease Connection
a study published in the New England
Journal of Medicine reported that a diagonal earlobe crease (ELC) was a
potential indicator of coronary artery disease (CAD). This crease was later
called “Frank’s sign,” after the lead author of the study, Dr. Sanders T.
Frank. Whereas a “normal” earlobe is smooth, an earlobe with a crease has a fold,
straight line, or wrinkle that appears to cut the earlobe in half. Could such a
small mark on your ear really have anything to do with heart disease?
Frank’s original study in 1973, several more scientists have looked at the
potential connection between earlobe creases and CAD. Some studies have shown a
connection, while others haven’t. In 1982, Pasternac and colleagues published a
study of 340 patients. They found that the earlobe crease was a sign associated
with increasing age and CAD.
crease suggested the presence of a more severe form of heart disease in patients
who were showing symptoms. The earlobe crease, the researchers wrote, “may identify
a subset of patients prone to early aging and to the early development of
coronary artery disease, whose prognosis might be improved by early
study published in 1989 by Kirkham and colleagues studied the bodies of
patients who had died from various causes. In their study of a little over 300
bodies, the diagonal creases were associated with cardiovascular causes of
death. “We found a strong association between earlobe creases and a
cardiovascular cause of death in men and women after age, height, and diabetes
had been controlled for,” the researchers wrote.
study in 1991 by Elliott and colleagues found similar results. So did a study
by Edston in 2006, which reported that the predictive value of an ear crease
was as high as 80 percent in individuals younger than 40 years.
other studies showed different results. Fisher and colleagues, for example,
published a study in 1980 that showed no significant relationship between ELC
and CAD in American Indians. This indicates that “Frank’s sign” may not show
the same correlation in other ethnic groups. Another study of Japanese Americans
living in Hawaii also found no connection. Studies have indicated that the sign
may be less indicative in patients who have other important risk factors for
CAD, particularly diabetes.
studies have theorized that as patients age, the presence of earlobe creases
and heart disease increase—especially after they reach the age of 50. This
doesn’t necessarily mean that one has to do with the other. This was what a
University of Massachusetts Medical School team concluded from their study.
They reported that earlobe creases are a simple feature of the aging process in
How Could Ear Creases Indicate Heart Disease?
scientists aren’t sure how these two might be connected, there are some
theories. Degeneration of the elastic tissue around the small blood vessels
that carry blood to the earlobes produces the earlobe crease. This is the same
type of change in blood vessels associated with CAD. In other words, visible
changes that show up in tiny blood vessels of the ear could indicate similar
changes in those blood vessels that can’t be seen around the heart.
creases can also be caused by rare disorders like Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome in
children or by genetic factors such as race and earlobe shape. Taking all these
factors into consideration, how concerned should you be if you have an earlobe
Use It to Your Advantage
enough studies establishing a connection between earlobe creases and heart
disease that if you have such a wrinkle on your ear, it’s worth taking seriously.
A 2011 NYU School of Medicine student review of the studies concluded that ELC predicts
CAD more often than traditional risk factors and that it may be useful for
identifying patients with the disease.
check with your doctor. Most likely, they’ll conduct further tests to determine
your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other risk factors you may have.
By taking everything—including your ears—into account, you’re more likely to
create a clear overall picture of your risk and determine what steps you can
take to protect your heart health.