Xanthomata in certain tendons could signal high cholesterol

Dr Chris reveals how eyes can indicate high cholesterol levels

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Someone with high cholesterol has too much of a fatty substance, called cholesterol, in their blood. Over time these fatty deposits can block blood vessels, causing real problems. Often high cholesterol is linked to certain lifestyle factors such as eating too much fatty food and not exercising enough.

In these cases having high cholesterol usually doesn’t display symptoms.

However, some people can have familial hypercholesterolaemia, a genetic condition that means you have higher levels of cholesterol in your blood.

Those with familial hypercholesterolaemia are more likely to experience symptoms.

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), one such symptom is tendon xanthomata.

Xanthomas are raised skin lesions caused by fat deposits in the skin.

They are often yellow and appear waxy.

The most common places on the body to find xanthomas if you have high cholesterol are:

  • Knuckles
  • Knee
  • Achilles tendon.

If you notice lesions in these places it is worth seeing your doctor and asking them to check your cholesterol levels.

The BHF explains more about cholesterol symptoms: “There are usually no symptoms of high cholesterol. But if left untreated, it can lead to heart attack and stroke.

“It’s often a hidden risk factor which means it can happen without us knowing until it’s too late.

“That is why it’s so important to get your cholesterol level checked.”

Other visible signs of familial hypercholesterolaemia include:

  • Xanthelasmas – small, yellow lumps of cholesterol near the inner corner of your eye
  • Corneal arcus – this is a pale white ring around the coloured part of your eye, your iris.

What counts as high cholesterol?

There are two types of cholesterol found in the blood – low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein.

Low-density lipoprotein is also known as “bad” cholesterol as it raises your risk of complications such as heart attacks.

Whereas high-density lipoprotein, “good” cholesterol, can lower this risk.

A healthy level of total cholesterol in the blood is considered to be five or less millimoles per litre (mmol/l).

A healthy level of high-density lipoprotein is one or more mmol/l.

And a safe amount of low-density lipoprotein is four or less mmol/l.

Lifestyle factors that cause high cholesterol include:

  • Eating fatty food
  • Not exercising enough
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol.

However, other uncontrollable factors can increase your chances of high cholesterol, including:

  • Getting older
  • If your biological sex is male
  • Your ethnic background – if you are from a south Asian background, you are more likely to have high cholesterol.

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