When you think about high cholesterol, what do you think of? Most people would say something like “heart problem” or “cardiovascular disease.” But did you know that high levels of cholesterol can also have an effect on your body that goes beyond your heart? You may be surprised that high cholesterol can also have an impact on your eyes.
High Cholesterol and Your Eyes
Xanthelasma (Fatty deposits) in your eyelid
The most common way that your eyes can be affected is through the presence of xanthelasma. These are small yellow-tinted deposits of fat in the skin around your eyes, specifically, in the upper eyelids and inside the eyelids, around the area of the nose.
Risk factors and causes of xanthelasma
Not everyone who has high cholesterol develops xanthelasma, but more than 50% of people who have xanthelasma have high cholesterol.
Some of the risk factors for xanthelasma include:
- Heavy drinking.
- Heart disease.
- Conditions caused by xanthelasma
Usually xanthelasma isn’t painful. Though it’s usually just an issue of looks, xanthelasma can sometimes get worse, causing more serious problems.
Arcus senilis is a condition in which a white or grayish ring or halo appears around the edges of the clear layer of your eye that protects your iris, known as the cornea.
This ring comes from cholesterol deposits in your eye, which don’t impair your vision, but are still a definite sign of issues with high cholesterol which need to be addressed with your doctor.
Hollenhorst plaque is a much more serious issue than arcus senilis. This occurs when small pieces of plaque build-up that result from high cholesterol break loose from the blood vessel walls, travel up to the vessels in the eye, and get stuck there, blocking blood flow in one or more of the blood vessels within your eye. This can lead to potentially severe consequences for your vision, including vision loss and even blindness.
Increased risk of eye diseases and conditions
Along with the immediate signs of high cholesterol that are present in the form of xanthelasma and associated eye conditions, there is also an increased risk of developing several sight-threatening eye conditions, including:
- Macular degeneration
- Treating cholesterol conditions in your eyes
- Treating these and other eye conditions that result from high cholesterol requires a holistic approach that considers the whole body, One of the most effective ways to address these problems is to adopt a low-fat diet. This includes eating more unprocessed fruits and vegetables and avoiding foods that are highly processed, such as potato chips and simple carbs.
In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe certain medications to help lower cholesterol including:
- Statins (Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin and Lovastatin).
- Bile acid sequestrants (Cholestyramine, Colestipol, Colesevelam).
- PCSK9 Inhibitors (Alirocumab, Evolocumab).
Though they may not cause you any pain, these eye symptoms can still do damage to your vision, and are also a sign of an overall issue with your health. Don’t ignore the signs of high cholesterol.
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