A sign of fatty liver disease around the eyes may signal that the condition is becoming ‘fatal’
Fatty liver disease is a progressive disease that eventually leads to scarring of the liver. Symptoms, often absent at first, tend to worsen with each stage of the disease. Skin complications such as xanthelasmas are often seen in the later stages of fatty liver disease.
“Xanthelasmas are accumulations of lipid-laden histiocyte deposits in the upper and lower eyelids,” says the Annals of Hepatology.
There is a strong association between primary biliary cirrhosis and hypercholesterolemia, which may explain the tendency of these patients to develop both xanthelasmas and cutaneous xanthomas.
Xanthoma is the medical term for yellow growths that tend to form in the inner corners of the upper and lower eyelids in a bow-like shape.
In medical settings, they often serve as an early warning that cholesterol has begun to build up in the blood vessels.
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In fact, the Journal of Inflammation Research states that up to 67.9% of patients with cutaneous xanthomas have abnormal blood lipids.
“Therefore, xanthelasmas […] not only affects the cosmetic appearance, but also serves as an alarm signal for hyperlipidemia, ”says the journal.
He adds that other less common skin manifestations associated with the disease include dryness syndrome and vitiligo.
Over time, hyperlipidemia contributes to the formation of hard, sticky plaques on the walls of arteries, reducing the amount of space available for blood flow.
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Although xanthelasmas are primarily associated with the presence of cholesterol in the bloodstream, there is a growing body of literature supporting their association with heart and liver health.
In 2021, the Journal of Inflammation Research pointed out that fatty liver has the same risk factors as atherosclerosis.
This prompted the researchers to investigate whether patients with xanthelasma may also be at risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
In their analysis, the researchers found that patients with more severe forms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease had higher rates of xanthelasmas than patients without the condition.
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The authors also noted that the condition is more common in women than men, usually affecting people in their 40s and 50s.
According to WebMD, most of the cholesterol we get from food ends up in the liver.
“If you get too much, it can increase your risk of fatty liver disease,” the health organization explains.
It goes on to say, “High cholesterol can also turn fatty liver disease into a more serious and sometimes fatal condition known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.”
Steatohepatitis is the medical term for a type of liver disease in which fat builds up inside the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol.
The result is liver inflammation and cell damage that contributes to the scarring of the organ, known as cirrhosis.
The NHS says it can take years for the liver to start scarring, so it’s never too late to start making lifestyle changes.
Regular exercise and limiting fatty foods can help improve a person with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, even if they are not losing weight.
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