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High Cholesterol Symptoms in eyes
Most of us are aware of the acute dangers of cholesterol and how it can affect the body in a way that can cause serious issues overall. The most common symptoms associated with higher cholesterol levels are heart-related such as strokes, heart attacks, etc. These are caused due to the build-up of plaque in the arteries leading to them being blocked and the flow of fresh and oxygenated blood being restricted and not reaching the organs.
Many other uncommon issues are also noted with high cholesterol levels in the body. Doctors also ask their patients with a history of high cholesterol to keep a keen check on their eyes and eye health. This is because higher levels of cholesterol are known to create a huge and devastating impact on the eyes and vision. Cholesterol in eyes can be hugely problematic even in the long run if it is undiagnosed and untreated in the beginning.
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Signs & symptoms of high cholesterol in eyes
When there is too much cholesterol in the body, more than the body needs to function at its optimal level, it can also cause problems in vision. High cholesterol symptoms in the eyes can include many problematic areas. The more commonly noticed signs of high cholesterol affecting the eyes would be – blurry vision, dark spots in the vision, acute pain in the eyes, etc. At times, some signs may not affect your vision and sight but can still create an impact on overall eye health. Symptoms may appear in and around the eyes.
- Xanthelasma - One such symptom would be xanthelasma – yellowing of the skin around the eyes. This is characterized by a flat or somewhat raised yellowish area around the skin of the eyes or near the nose. These are deposits caused by the build-up of cholesterol under the skin. Xanthelasma will not affect your sight. These symptoms are very common in Asian or Mediterranean people. Certain risk factors will also affect the onset of these symptoms – being overweight, smoking, living with diabetes, high blood pressure, etc
- Arcus Senilis – This condition is characterized by a blue, white, or light gray ring that is formed outside the front of the eyes. This happens as more cholesterol reaches the cornea. The ring will be visible around the colored area of the eyes (iris). The iris will appear as if it has two colors, however, it will just be a discoloration. This symptom will also not affect your vision. It is more common in middle-aged people. If this occurs in children, it is called arcus juveniles.
- Retinal vein occlusion – The light-sensitive part of the eye, the retina, receives its blood supply through the retinal artery and vein. When this vein is blocked, it is called retinal vision occlusion. It is called retinal artery occlusion or a stroke when the artery is blocked. The blocking of the vein will result in the spilling of blood and fluid into the retina causing swelling. This can affect your central vision. Some signs would be – blurry vision in one eye, changes in vision, dark spots or lines, and pain in the affected eye. This is more common in people over the age of 50 and with other comorbidities like high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, etc.
Other symptoms of high cholesterol can also affect the eye but may not be very common. However, when they appear, they may become quite severe.
Hollenhorst plaque – This is present when a piece of cholesterol (or fibrin) is found in the artery of the retina. This piece usually enters from a larger artery in the body, for example, the carotid artery. This can be a sign of a much more serious issue. The formation of this plaque is more common in older adults. It does not cause any warning signs or symptoms – you may not be aware of its presence until it causes a blockage. The presence of this plaque can be an indicator of a larger clot or blockage in the carotid artery. If that clot gets dislodged and moves to the brain, it can cause a stroke. Strokes can affect your vision, degrade motor and sensory control, and can also be fatal.
Causes of cholesterol in the eyes
Anyone can experience cholesterol deposits in the eyes. However, this condition is much more common in people who have a lipid disorder – dyslipidemia. Because of too many lipids in the bloodstream including triglycerides and certain types of cholesterol, this condition can lead to affecting the eyes.
- Genetic factors can also result in higher deposits or high cholesterol symptoms in eyes – related. Deficiency of familial lipoprotein lipase, familial hypertriglyceridemia, familial dyslipoproteinemia, etc can cause issues.
- Additionally, at times, lifestyle factors also play a huge role in the amount of cholesterol in the body. Poor diets, excess consumption of alcohol, weight gain, smoking, no cardio exercises, etc
- Side effects of medications can cause cholesterol to reach the eyes. Medicines like beta-blockers, oral contraceptives, retinoids, corticosteroids, etc can build cholesterol levels
- Medical conditions like kidney disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes, etc can also elevate cholesterol deposits in the body.
How cholesterol in the eyes is diagnosed?
Your doctor may want to know when cholesterol symptoms in eyes first appeared for you. The yellow spots in and around the eyes will be vital and you may be asked questions about any changes since you first noticed them. A visual exam may be a good way to diagnose early symptoms.
Doctors may ask about the medical history of dyslipidemia. A look at the risk factors like family history and genetics will help them make a diagnosis. Another very common way to diagnose high cholesterol would be with the help of a blood panel. The lipid profile test will be ordered and your HDL, LDL, and triglyceride level will be measured.
The overall treatment options for high cholesterol are varied. A holistic approach is suggested by most doctors so that no stones are left unturned in the treatment of the symptoms of high cholesterol in the body. A combination of many different methods is recommended even when the symptoms of cholesterol reach the eyes.
- The surgical excision with a very small blade to remove the growths in and around the eyes
- Chemical cauterization with the help of chlorinated acetic acids
- Cryotherapy is repeatedly used to eliminate and destroy xanthelasma.
- Carbon dioxide and argon laser ablation is less invasive
Each of these surgical procedures will have its risks and recovery periods. Monitor your progress and note any side effect or problem that arises so that you can treat it at the earliest.
Many times, when the risk is too high, with a family history, or with other comorbidities that may affect a person, doctors may suggest going for medications that may lower the lipids in the body. These medications can be of different types and will have varying functions. They may be suggested alone or in combination with some others. Lipid-lowering medications like statins, ezetimibe, etc are prescribed to quickly get rid of any symptoms associated with high cholesterol around the eyes
Nutrition is one of the most important lifestyle changes recommended for a person with higher cholesterol levels. Eating a balanced diet with higher levels of fiber, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and limiting the intake of foods with higher saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol would be advised. Avoid overconsumption of – whole milk, butter, cheese, cream, fatty meats, cakes, cookies, etc. Include a lot of beans, lentils, oats, barley, wholegrain rice, citrus fruits, etc in the daily diet. A healthy diet can help prevent and manage the symptoms of high cholesterol and can lead to a sustainable change in the levels.
3. Regular physical activity
Exercising regularly is one of the major tenets of dealing with higher levels of cholesterol in the blood. Many studies have proven the positive link between high cholesterol and exercise. Regular physical activity is known to be essential in treating dyslipidemia and it can raise the healthy cholesterol levels in the blood. It can also lower LDL levels and triglycerides. Since exercise burns fat, it provides an added advantage to dealing with unhealthy cholesterol levels. 30-45 minutes of moderately intense activities like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, running, etc can help improve cardio health and can help maintain body weight.
4. Losing weight
Multiple research studies have supported weight loss factors with cholesterol. Being overweight and obese is linked to raising LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Losing weight healthily can help improve the symptoms of dyslipidemia. Even 5-10% weight loss is considered highly effective in lowering overall cholesterol levels in the blood.
Doctors often suggest opting for a preventative approach when it comes to dealing with higher levels of cholesterol. Since this is a stubborn and sticky problem, it can lead to lifelong consequences that can be hard to deal with. It would, therefore, be of great advantage, if the problem could be prevented in the first place. By following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you will notice a lot of your problems being solved, however, there are other things that you can do to prevent the onset of higher cholesterol levels in the body.
- Quitting smoking
Smoking tobacco and other nicotine-laced products are known to raise LDL levels of cholesterol in the blood. It can also inhibit the positive effects of HDL cholesterol. A person, especially, at greater risk of developing high cholesterol should avoid smoking
2. Reduce alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol is also associated with higher levels of cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Certain recommendation levels are provided by medical professionals and they should be followed for a healthy lifestyle without the onset of such chronic medical conditions.
Other serious health issues that can be detected in an eye exam
When you visit your eye doctor, be sure to get a complete health check-up done so that you can rule out any issues that may turn out to be fatal later. Some serious health issues that can come out of an eye exam would be
1. Diabetes – The tiny blood vessels in the retina can be a tell-tale sign of diabetes.
2. High blood pressure – Blood vessels in the eye can also indicate this potentially life-threatening condition. Changes in these vessels can lead to leaks in the eyes
3. Thyroid – Bulging or protruding eyeballs and retracting eyelids are symptoms of thyroid.
4. Rheumatoid arthritis – People with red eyes and pain could exhibit signs of this condition.
5. Brain tumors – The formation of a tumor in the brain can cause swelling and pressure – the impact of this can be seen in the back of the eye.
6. High cholesterol – Blue or yellow ring around the cornea or cholesterol deposits in the retina blood vessels
7. Cancer – A comprehensive eye exam can also denote cancer
When to see a doctor
As soon as you notice any of the signs and symptoms in or around the eye that are unusual, you should visit the doctor. Even if you have dealt with this issue before and it reappears, speak to your healthcare practitioner before you take action. Any gradual change that you notice in the vision should be communicated to the doctor. If your cholesterol levels are not lowering despite the medications you are on will also be a good time to visit them.
High cholesterol symptoms can be nuanced and tricky to handle. Therefore, it is important to be aware of its impact and signs so that you can catch them early. Make sure to be proactive and use a preventative approach to avoid any issues later. Engage in a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stay away from substances like tobacco and alcohol to ensure that your body is functioning properly without any issues. Visit your doctor in case you notice any changes in your vision.
1. How can you tell if you have high cholesterol from your eyes?
You can notice certain signs and symptoms that will indicate higher levels of cholesterol in the eyes. Blurry vision, grey, white, and yellow deposits around the cornea, yellow bumps around the eyes, etc can detect the presence of higher levels of cholesterol. Eye examinations leading to this diagnosis can be confirmed with the help of a lipid profile blood test.
2. How can I reduce the cholesterol around my eyes?
Doctors recommend many ways via which you can reduce cholesterol around the eyes, surgery is one such option – it may have its risks and advantages. Other options could be lifestyle changes like – weight loss, eating healthy, regular exercise, reducing the intake of alcohol and cigarettes, medications, etc. These changes will have to be constant for a long-term result
3. Can doctors tell if you have high cholesterol by looking at your eyes?
Yes, doctors might be able to notice the symptoms of high cholesterol levels by looking at the eyes. The most common eye symptom that can point towards higher levels of cholesterol would be xanthelasma – a flat or slightly raised yellowish area around the eyes or close to the nose. This can help doctors check for more concrete signs of high cholesterol
4. How do I reduce my cholesterol naturally?
The best ways to reduce cholesterol levels naturally would be with the help of permanent lifestyle changes in the form of a healthy diet and exercise. Include a diet that does not involve trans fats or processed fats. Have high fiber and protein diets. Exercise for about 30-40 minutes every day to see results that will last long. Additionally, you can also make other modifications like not consume alcohol or avoid smoking, have a good sleep cycle, adopt good stress management techniques, etc.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.