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Ears could be key to identifying stroke risk

Tuesday 13th June 2017
A distinctive crease mark on the ear lobes could be a sign that a person is at increased risk of a stroke, according to new research. Image: VladimirFLoyd via iStock
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Audiologists treating patients for various hearing problems may wish to look a little closer at the aesthetics of their ears in the future, as new research has found that the shape of a person's ear lobes could play an important role in determining their risk of a stroke.
 
This discovery was made by researchers based in Israel, who identified a link between a distinctive diagonal crease in a patient's ear lobe and their likelihood of suffering a stroke.
 
The Mail on Sunday reports that scientists examined 241 male stroke patients and noted that three-quarters of them had this recognisable mark on their ears, which is known in the medical world as Frank's Sign.
 
Previous research has suggested that this diagonal crease develops as a person ages and could be linked to the heart finding it more difficult to pump blood to the ear lobes as it gets older. Clogged arteries can make this process more challenging, in turn increasing a person's risk of stroke.
 
As a result, the Israeli doctors believe that healthcare workers and patients should look for this sign that they may be at risk and use it as motivation to change their lifestyle habits in order to safeguard their health.
 
Commenting on the discovery of this potential link, Dr Yaqoob Bhat, clinical director for stroke medicine at the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in South Wales, explained: "The so-called Frank's Sign in the ear lobes has been recognised as having a possible association with advanced age, but some studies have shown its association with cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease and peripheral vascular disease.
 
"This new study suggests an association with increased risk of stroke, but further studies are needed to assess its importance."
 
In the meantime, however, audiologists may wish to advise patients with this distinctive mark on some of the healthy lifestyle changes they could make to reduce their risk of a stroke.
 
Written by James Puckle
 
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