If we eat foods that contain more cholesterol than our bodies need—-and our body doesn’t excrete the excess-—it can build up in our artery walls and form plaque. But cholesterol can also build up in other places in our body too, like around our eyes. While consuming too many fatty foods is usually the reason for this excess of cholesterol, there are other reasons too, like the genetic condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia.
Familial Hypercholesterolemia Defined
Familial hypercholesterolemia is a gene defect. The defective gene’s presence, located on chromosome 19, predisposes an individual to high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, according to the University of Maryland’s Medical Center. As early as birth, individuals who have inherited this defect will not only have high LDL levels; their bodies will also be unable to rid themselves of any LDL (bad cholesterol) in the bloodstream.
Cholesterol Eye Deposit Cause
One of the symptoms of familial hypercholesterolemia is fatty cholesterol deposits in the skin, known as xanthomas. These fatty deposits can also be found around the eye area, specifically in the eyelids. This type of deposit is referred to as xanthelasmas. But fatty cholesterol of this type isn’t limited to the skin of the eye; it can also be found within the eye itself, a condition known as corneal arcus.
Other Cause of Eye Deposit Cholesterol
High LDL and triglyceride cholesterol levels due to dietary fat intake can cause fatty cholesterol deposits around the eyes. And according to Dr. Marc Werner, a Stahl Eye Center Ophthalmologist located in New York, the eye blood vessels are just as easily affected by excess cholesterol as the blood vessels in the body. Therefore, fat doesn’t just get deposited around the eyes; it can be in them too.
Deposits: Indicator of Other Problems
Cholesterol deposits around the eye can be an indicator of what is going on in the eye itself, according to Werner in an interview with FOX News. “The eye is the only place in the body where you can see blood vessels. So, when I look into someone’s eye—-I’m not only examining their eye—-but I am also getting an indication of their general health.” Therefore, if the eye blood vessels are becoming blocked, it is a good indicator that other internal arteries might be too.
When cholesterol fat becomes so thick in the eye area and the eye blood vessels, it can block blood flow, causing the formation of a blood clot (as it can in other body arteries). The condition known as retinal vein occlusion can cause blindness. Therefore, fatty deposits around the eyes should be viewed as seriously as fatty deposits in the body’s arteries.