Seeing the signs of high cholesterol

High Cholesterol and how our optometrists can detect it

 

October is National Cholesterol Month, an entire month devoted to raising awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol.

Our bodies make their own cholesterol, which they need to function properly; however, cholesterol is also present in many foods. If we consume excess cholesterol, it can build up in our arteries, narrowing them and putting us at increased risk of serious health conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Blood tests will determine your blood cholesterol levels, but during an eye exam, your doctor may detect warning signs.

Blood tests will determine blood cholesterol levels, but did you know that during an eye test our optometrist can detect the warning signs of high cholesterol?

Cholesterol and your eyelids

Sometimes people with high cholesterol have small deposits of fat under their skin. These deposits are called xanthelasmas and they can occur on the eyelids. They are a yellowish colour and they may appear to be slightly raised. Xanthelasma does not require any treatment and won’t cause any discomfort or other symptoms. However, once a xanthelasma appears, the discolouration will remain unless it is surgically removed. High cholesterol is not the only reason a xanthelasma may occur. If our optometrists note xanthelasma growth, they will, with your permission inform your GP as this could indicate a possible cholesterol problem.

High cholesterol is not the only reason a xanthelasma may occur. If our optometrists note xanthelasma growth, they will, with your permission inform your GP as this could indicate a possible cholesterol problem.

Cholesterol and your Cornea

During an eye test, our optometrists will study the front surface of your eye including your cornea. This part of your eye is the dome-shaped, clear structure in front of your iris. You may have noticed a white ring around the outer edge of your cornea, but the colour change may also appear as if your iris has some discolouration. This white ring is called an arcus and it may appear without the presence of high cholesterol. An arcus can appear as part of the natural aging process of the eye, but anyone, whatever their age can develop an arcus from high cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol and your Retina

As part of a thorough eye examination, our optometrists may dilate your pupils and examine the back of your eyes in detail. In most cases, optometrists can’t detect visible signs of high cholesterol in the back of your eyes. However, some retinal anomalies could indicate a possible cholesterol problem.  If our optometrists observe these or other changes they may recommend having your cholesterol levels checked. They may also refer you, with your permission for further investigation.

In Conclusion

Optometrists cannot determine that you do have high cholesterol from your eye test. Eye tests can, however, detect any warning signs that point to the presence of high cholesterol.

If our optometrists detect any potential signs that you may have high cholesterol, they will, with your permission inform your General Practitioner of their findings during your examination. Your GP will most likely order blood tests. These tests will provide your cholesterol levels, helping to determine if any dietary changes or treatment is required.

 

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