Fatty liver sign on eyelids could signal the condition is worsening
Fatty liver disease is a progressive condition that ultimately leads to scarring of the liver. The symptoms, which are often absent at the outset, tend to worsen with each stage of the disease. Cutaneous complications like xanthelasmas are often seen in the more advanced stages of fatty liver disease.
“Xanthelasmas are collections of lipid-laden histiocytes deposits in the upper and lower eyelids,” according to the Annals of Hepatology.
There is a firm connection between primary biliary cirrhosis and hypercholesterolemia, which can explain the tendency of these patients to develop both xanthelasmas and cutaneous xanthomas.
Xanthoma is a medical term describing yellow growths that tend to be positioned in the inner corners of the upper and lower eyelids, taking on the form of an arc.
In medical settings, they often serve as an early warning sign that cholesterol has started to build up inside the blood vessels.
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In fact, the Journal of Inflammation Research states that up to 67.9 percent of patients with cutaneous xanthomas have blood lipid disorders.
“Therefore, xanthelasma […] not only affects the cosmetic appearance but also serves as a red flag for hyperlipidemia,” states the journal.
It adds that other disease-associated skin manifestations that are less frequent, include sicca syndrome and vitiligo.
Over time, hyperlipidemia contributes to the formation of hard sticky plaque on the arterial walls, reducing the amount of space available for blood flow.
Though xanthelasmas are primarily associated with the presence of cholesterol in the bloodstream, there is increasing literature supporting their connection to heart and liver health.
In 2021, the Journal of Inflammation Research pointed out that fatty liver disease shares similar risk factors to atherosclerosis.
This incited researchers to investigate whether patients with xanthelasmas may also be at risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
In their analysis, the scientists found that patients presenting with more serious forms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease showed higher scores of xanthelasmas than those without the condition.
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The authors also noted that the condition tends to be more prevalent in women than in men, typically affecting individuals around the age of 40 to 50 years old.
According to WebMD, most of the cholesterol we get from food ends up inside the liver.
“If you are getting too much, this can increase your risk of fatty liver disease,” explains the health body.
It continues: “High cholesterol also can 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 of individuals who drink little to no alcohol.
The result is inflammation of the liver and damage to the cells, which contribute to scarring of the organ, known as cirrhosis.
The NHS states that it can take years before the liver starts scarring, so it’s never too late to start making lifestyle changes.
Exercising regularly and limiting the intake of fatty foods can help improve a person’s non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, even if they do not lose weight.
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