A lesser-known effect of high cholesterol is the impact it can have on our vision. High blood cholesterol level causes plaque build-up in our arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart which can lead to heart disease or stroke. But the potential damage doesn’t stop there; the hardening of arteries caused by high cholesterol (which is called atherosclerosis) and a blood clot formation can also be harmful for your eyes.
One of the main concerns is a condition known as retinal vein occlusion. This is a situation that usually develops when the smaller veins of the retina are compressed by retinal thickened arteries which eventually cause occlusion. It can also be caused by a blood clot and can lead to a painful blind eye. A 2008 study of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland concluded that patients with hyperlipidemia had a greater chance of retinal vein occlusion. Unfortunately there are no early warning signs such as pain or a gradual blurring of vision. The vision loss or blur can come on quite suddenly.
Another condition called Corneal Arcus is often associated with high cholesterol in young people. This condition does not affect vision as much as it signifies a need to control cholesterol. It is caused by lipid infiltration in the peripheral cornea and iIt appears as a yellowish-white ring around the cornea. Corneal Arcus is usually associated with familial (genetic) hyperlipidemia.
It’s important to make regular check-ups with your eye doctor part of your healthy lifestyle. Anyone with a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol will also want to speak to their optometrist about strategies that can help keep your eyes in tip-top shape.