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Having a high cholesterol level does not produce any intrinsic symptoms. Therefore, the diagnosis, or diagnostic suspicion, or the control of hypercholesterolaemia cannot be based on the symptoms an individual may or may not have; a blood test is necessary for this purpose. A quite different matter, however, are the symptoms due to high cholesterol levels that are sustained over years, in other words, the accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries.
Signs of Hypercholesterolaemia
Typically, hypercholesterolaemia does not produce any external signs that can be observed during a physical examination. However, in some people with very high cholesterol, visible or palpable signs can be detected.
Cholesterol deposits in different parts of the body. In the skin around the eyes (known as xanthelasmas, although they are not always specifically due to high cholesterol), on tendons (xanthomas), under the skin on the palms of the hands, elbows or heels, or visible deposits around the coloured, outer section of the eye (iris), known as corneal arcus. Corneal arcus may also develop as a result of old age (arcus senilis), so its observation is especially relevant as an indicator of high cholesterol in people under the age of 45.
The presence of these signs (particularly corneal arcus and xanthomas) helps identify people who have high cholesterol levels from childhood due to a genetic problem (familial hypercholesterolaemia) and need lifelong treatment to reduce their cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease.