High cholesterol: Changes in your eyes particularly worrying for those under the age of 45

Dr Chris reveals how eyes can indicate high cholesterol levels

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High cholesterol is when you have too much cholesterol in your blood. This can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack and stroke. The condition is often symptomless meaning there are no obvious signs pertaining to your risk until it is too late. A peculiar change evident in your eyes, however, could be a strong indicator particularly if under the age of 45.

In some people, a bluish or grey or white arc becomes visible above and below the outer part of the cornea which could be an early warning symptom of high cholesterol.

It is located in the clear, domelike covering over the front of the eye.

This is a condition called “Arcus senilis”.

The condition is more common in men than woman.

Seeing this blue ring should not always be a cause for concern as it is also considered a normal sign of ageing.

However, when it occurs in younger people (under 45 years of age) it is due to hyperlipidaemia and is mostly associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Eventually, the arc may become a complete ring around the coloured portion (iris) of your eye.

In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, the significance of corneal arcus was investigated.

In the study 500 people above the age of 40 were screened for corneal arcus and were studied with regards to age, sex, diet habits, thickening of peripheral arteries (fundus examination), blood pressure and associated cataract and fundus pathology.

Only 225 out of the 500 screened had corneal arcus (45 percent).

A distinct increase in the incidence of corneal arcus with age can be observed and more so above the age of 60.

“Corneal arcus was present only in 45 percent of the total 500 patients screened over 40 years of age. However, it was present in over 70 percent of cases over 60,” said the study.

It concluded: “Fasting serum triglyceride, one of the accurate indices of functional status of lipid metabolism was raised in 72 percent of cases suggesting a strong correlation between impairment of lipid metabolism and incidence of corneal arcus.”

If you’re under age 40 and have arcus senilis, you should get a blood test to check your cholesterol and lipid levels.

You may be at higher risk for high cholesterol and coronary artery disease.

Your doctor can treat high cholesterol in a few ways.

You might start by trying lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.

Arcus senilis is caused by deposits of fat (lipids) in the outer part of your cornea.

“An ophthalmologist can simply look at your eye to diagnose arcus senilis,” said the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The health site continued: “Sometimes they will use a slit-lamp microscope as well.

“Arcus senilis has no symptoms.

“Arcus senilis does not cause vision problems, so no treatment is necessary.”

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