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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Why do some people have creases in their earlobes?

Vibhuti Singh, chairman of the medicine and cardiology department at the Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, answers:
Human earlobes are normally smooth and free of creases. Many people develop lines in their ears, however, and some studies suggest that a person with an earlobe crease is more likely to develop a heart attack. Since 1973 more than 30 studies of a link have been reported. One of the largest involved 1,000 hospitalized patients. Of the 373 who had earlobe creases, 74 percent developed heart disease, while only 16 percent of those without creases did so. In another study, having an earlobe crease and chest pain predicted a heart attack 90 percent of the time. Similar symptoms without a crease predicted a heart attack only 10 percent of the time. Other reports, however, have been much less conclusive. A study involving 3,155 Chinese, for instance, found that diagonal earlobe creases were a phenomenon of aging and had no predictive significance for heart disease. So while the phenomenon is interesting, it may not be as important a predictor of heart disease as other already established and modifiable risk factors. It is likely that earlobe creases, rather than having a genetic basis, result from age-related chronic circulatory changes that allow vessels in the earlobe to collapse and produce the crease. Until more definitive studies are done, an earlobe crease may merely suggest the need for more aggressive medical monitoring.

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