How does having high cholesterol affect your skin? | High Cholesterol

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Marcus J. Cox, MD

Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Skin lesions called xanthomas can appears in patients with high cholesterol levels. These are typically seen as yellowish-reddish bumps and the patches can vary in size and number.

They tend to occur in the elderly and in those with diabetes and other health conditions. Even in infancy, these can be seen in patients with inherited familial hypercholesterolemia.

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James A. Underberg, MD

In most cases, elevated cholesterol does not cause any problems at all with the skin, however, a small number of people with genetic/inherited causes of high cholesterol or high triglycerides can have skin manifestations of these problems. Patients with very high cholesterol and family history, known as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) can have lumps or bumps on some of the tendons of the body, most commonly the achillies, fingers and elbows. They are called xanthomas. They can also develop deposits of cholesterol around the eyes called xanthelasmas. Those with very high triglyceride levels can develop a rash of small lumps on the back, stomach, legs and arms filled with fat called eruptive xanthomas. Often these patients are seen first by a dermatologist and then sent to a lipid specialist once the diagnosis of high triglycerides is made. Finally there are other, less common conditions, one called Familial Dysbetalipoprotinemia that causes a yellowish discoloration of the palms, associated with very high levels of both triglycerides and cholesterol. Again, these conditions are NOT seen very often, and in most cases high cholesterol will not cause skin problems.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD

Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

High blood fats won’t just clog your arteries – they’ll clog your skin. Out-of-control levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can wreak havoc on your appearance. A hailstorm of yellow bumps, called xanthomas, result from high triglyceride levels. Scavenger cells clean up the fatty debris beneath the surface of the skin. Low saturated and trans fat diets, blood sugar control, and LDL cholesterol-lowering and HDL cholesterol-raising medications are essential steps. Once blood fats are lowered, xanthomas can resolve, but this may take years. Adding niacin (300 mg or more twice a day – see your doc on this one) and 162 mg of aspirin a day (with a half glass of warm water before and after to minimize stomach damage) will help reduce arterial inflammation and reduce the risk of wrinkles (as well as erectile dysfunction).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.

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