High cholesterol symptoms: The subtle ocular sign in your eye indicating high levels

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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According to Dr Matthew Bovenzi, from the College of Optometry New York, high cholesterol can be spotted by the appearance of your eyes. If you look into a mirror, here’s what you should be looking out for. One “ocular sign” of high cholesterol is “a bluish ring” on the outer side of the cornea – the otherwise clear front part of the eye. The ring is known as “arcus senilis”, which becomes more apparent as cholesterol levels increase.

Considered benign, the bluish ring doesn’t interfere with a person’s vision, which is why you may not notice it until you look for it.

“If you or a family member shows this sign, it would be prudent to get a lipid panel test from your physician,” Dr Bovenzi advised.

You can request a lipid blood test from your doctor, which can then confirm or deny if you have high cholesterol.

The ramifications of high cholesterol are said to range from “cosmetic to devastating, irreversible blindness”.

Aside from arcus senilis, another cosmetic sign of high cholesterol might include “small, soft, yellowish elevations of skin above the eyes”.

These are known as “xanthelasma”, and they might also appear near the nose.

Dr Bovenzi stated: “The eyes are the only place in the human body where actual blood vessels can be observed without the need to cut into the body or take special images.”

It’s for this reason that eye specialists, such as optometrists, can spots signs of high cholesterol.

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This explains why attending regular eye appointments at the opticians is a good way to keep on top of your health.

“Examination of the retinal vasculature can lead to the diagnosis of a variety of systemic conditions,” said Dr Bovenzi.

This can include diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol.


Dr Bovenzi differentiated between two types of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

“LDL transports cholesterol to artery walls and body tissue,” Dr Bovenzi said.

“For this reason, elevated LDL levels are considered a risk to health, as cholesterol build-up can narrow arterial walls.

“Parts of a cholesterol plaque can break off and block smaller arteries downstream, leading to a loss of function of the area supplied by the affected artery.

“When this artery is in the heart, it can lead to a heart attack. In the brain, it is a stroke.”

As for LDL cholesterol, this is “used to carry cholesterol from artery walls to the liver”, hence why it’s considered “good” cholesterol”.

If a plaque is observed inside the small arteries within the eye, your life is at risk.

Known as a “Hollenhorst plaque”, it could lead to tissue death and blindness.

If you’re overdue your eye appointment, Dr Bovenzi strongly recommends booking one pronto.

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