Sunday, 28 May 2017
The tell-tale signs of a stroke: A crease in your ear lobes
Having diagonal creases across your ear lobes may mean you are at increased risk of suffering a stroke, according to new research. Scientists who examined 241 people who had experienced a stroke found more than three-quarters of them had the mark, known as Frank’s sign, on their ears. It’s thought that clogging of the arteries, which increases the risk of a stroke, also leads to poor blood supply to the ear lobes. This would cause a loss of elasticity and, in turn, the visible creasing. The Israeli researchers who uncovered the findings said doctors should consider adding the ear lobe crease to the list of ‘classic risk factors for the development of stroke’. But other observers think the feature could be little more than a sign of advancing years.
A number of famous people are known to have creased ear lobes, including film director Steven Spielberg, 70, and actor Mel Gibson, 61. In the study, published in the American Journal of Medicine (AJM), the researchers said they found 78 of 88 patients who had suffered a full-blown stroke (88 per cent) had creased ear lobes. That also applied to 112 of 153 (73 per cent) of patients who had experienced a ‘mini-stroke’ – more formally called a transient ischaemic attack. Previous research has also linked the ear creases with a higher heart attack risk.
In one study of 800 people, 77 per cent of those who had suffered an attack had the crease, compared to 40 per cent of those in a group of non-heart attack victims. Frank’s sign is named after the American doctor Sanders T Frank, who noticed in 1973 that the ear lobe crease was common in young patients with the heart condition angina. Besides the theory that the creases indicate clogged arteries, another possibility is that they are a sign of accelerated ageing. Creased earlobes are not the only visible indicator of potential health problems. Another sign that a person is at increased risk of heart disease or stroke is a receding hairline or bald patch. That holds true for both sexes, although it is much more common in men.
A pot belly also indicates a raised risk, even if the person is otherwise quite slim.
Last night, a British stroke expert said the Israeli researchers’ study into Frank’s sign should ‘This new study suggests an association with increased risk of stroke, but further studies are needed to assess its importance.’