Cholesterol Deposits on Eyelids

Yellow deposits forming on eyelids can look scary, but they normally do not cause any pain. What is behind them? Do they indicate there is something wrong with the body? And can they be removed? Let’s find it out.

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What are these deposits?

If you are looking for a scientific name for the yellow deposits you have noticed on your eyelids, you should know that it is called xanthelasma. The term is used to denote lumps of white or yellow color that can appear on an upper or lower eyelid (usually symmetrically), and the patient himself can see that there is an accumulation of fat inside it.

In most cases, such lumps are harmless and do not prevent a person from blinking or watching. However, if they progress, they become bigger and can even make it uncomfortable to open the eye. The deposits themselves are not a disease but a way the underlying condition causing them manifests itself. They do not require any treatment unless they impair the function of the eye, when it is uncomfortable to close your eyes or open them. The deposits can be numerous and coalesce to form large plaques. Some people also decide to remove cholesterol deposits for cosmetic reasons.

These deposits are usually a symptom of hyperlipidemia, a lipid disorder resulting from too many blood lipids. There can be different types of it, including:

  • Hypercholesterolemia (more than 200 mg/dL cholesterol);
  • Hypertriglyceridemia (more than 150 mg/dL triglycerides);
  • High LDL levels (more than 100 mg/dL);
  • High HDL levels (more than 40 mg/dL).

That being said, the first thing to do when you notice a yellow plaque on your eyelid is not to panic, but to obtain plasma lipid levels to find out whether there is a condition that requires treatment – not because it causes these harmless deposits, but because it can affect other organs.

Is hyperlipidemia the only disorder behind xanthelasma?

No. In 50% of patients with it lipid levels are within the normal range. There are genetic factors contributing to cholesterol deposit formation, and hyperlipidemia can also be inherited.

Cholesterol levels can increase as a result of biliary cirrhosis, which is a liver disease. There are lifestyle factors that are involved in cholesterol regulation and accumulation, such as smoking, insufficient exercising, significant alcohol consumption, obesity, etc. One of the major factors is following an inappropriate diet: instead of choosing food rich in unsaturated fats, people crave saturated fat-rich dishes and snacks that are not healthy.

Another yet quite rarely seen cause is taking certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, corticosteroids, beta-blockers, antiepileptic drugs, retinoids, etc. When consulting a doctor, do not forget to mention what medications you take, both regularly and occasionally.

What can I do with them?

A visual exam is usually the only thing required by a dermatologist or endocrinologist to diagnose xanthelasma. Performing differential diagnosis is a must, because it can be misdiagnosed for something else, so seeing a doctor won’t hurt: just don’t panic if you notice a yellow plaque that looks like a pouch of fat. Once it has been found that the plaque in question is really a xanthelasma, you can either forget about the deposit or have it removed by means of surgical excision, chemical cauterization, cryotherapy or other advanced methods. Don’t try removing them at home – it is dangerous!

The cholesterol deposits themselves are benign, which means they are not cancerous. However, it is recommended that all patients with xanthelasma have their cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels checked to treat the condition that may be behind it. Anyway, reevaluation of your lifestyle is a thing that is recommended to most people living in the modern world, and exercising more and eating healthy food (as well as other aspects of a healthy lifestyle) can be beneficial not only in terms of cholesterol regulation, but in many other ways.

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