Man having his eye examined
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Cholesterol embolism is also referred to as atheroembolism.

The sudden breakoff of cholesterol crystals, platelets, or debris from a plaque deposit in an arteries is the cause of this condition. Cholesterol can travel through your bloodstream to any part of your body.

You can learn more about cholesterol emboli in your eyes.

Emboli is a word. The wordembolus is Greek and means plug or wedge.

Cholesterol emboli are plugs that travel through your bloodstream to smaller blood vessels throughout your body. A cholesterol embolism occurs when a cholesterol embolus completely blocks blood flow in a blood vessel.

When cholesterol emboli break off from plaque deposits, they can travel to and lodge in the tiny blood vessels of your eye, blocking blood flow. This can cause inflammation and damage.

Cholesterol emboli are small and shiny. Emboli travel in groups and lodge together.

A type of cholesterol emboli in your eye is Hollenhorst plaques. Hollenhorst plaques are a biomarker (sign) of carotid artery disease. They’re usually found at the branches of retinal arteries. Since Hollenhorst plaques are flat in shape, they don’t always block blood flow or require treatment.

The central retinal arteries are the final branch of your internal carotid, so plaques of cholesterol in circulation often end up in them.

Cholesterol emboli are caused by the release of cholesterol crystals from atherosclerotic plaques. Having atherosclerosis (narrowing of your arteries) is a major risk factor for cholesterol emboli.

Atherosclerosis is caused by plaque buildup in your artery lining. Procedures designed to diagnose or treat atherosclerosis can release cholesterol emboli as an unwanted side effect. Around 80% of all occurrences are caused this way. If you have a procedure planned, such as thrombolysis or coronary angioplasty, talk with a doctor or healthcare professional about this potential side effect and how it can be avoided or treated.

If you have risk factors for this condition, the release of cholesterol emboli from your arteries can also occur.

Risk factors for cholesterol emboli include:

If you have cholesterol in your eye, you may not have any symptoms. You may have symptoms that affect your entire body.

Bodily symptoms differentiate this condition from other more common eye health issues, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma, which typically cause eye symptoms only. An exception is narrow-angle glaucoma, which may cause nausea and vomiting.

Systemic symptoms of cholesterol emboli are present in your eye.

Eye symptoms of cholesterol emboli include:

An oral history of your symptoms and diagnoses will be taken by a healthcare professional. They will want to know if you had a procedure recently.

Tests for overall health

Your health will be assessed.

  • Blood tests will be administered to check your cholesterol, Triglycerides, and sugar levels.
  • Your blood will be analyzed for signs of inflammation and atherosclerosis.
  • You may have a standard blood pressure test and an electrocardiogram.

“A duplex is a type of diagnostic test done on the Carotid. The test shows how well the arteries are working. Cholesterol emboli can originate in your neck’s carotid arteries.”

Tests for eye health

The presence of cholesterol emboli in your eyes will be assessed with one or more of these procedures.

Funduscopic examination

This is a part of a standard eye exam. A doctor will look at your eyes during the test. This device illuminates your eye structures. Your pupils may be dilated to give you a better view.

Fundus photography

This can be used to take a picture of the back of your eye. The fundus is the part of your eye that contains your blood vessels. Fundus photography uses a special camera. Your pupils will be dilated.

Fluorescein angiography

“This test will show you color pictures of your eye. A vein in your arm will be injected with fluoroscein. Your eyes will be open. A camera will take pictures of your eye’s internal structures when the dye passes through.”

“The presence of cholesterol emboli in your eyes is not always indicative of need for treatment. If the emboli don’t affect blood flow, no treatment for your eyes is needed. Regular eye exams will be needed to keep an eye on the condition.”

The root cause of cholesterol emboli will be addressed by long-term treatments. In some cases, this may include an ongoing regimen of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Can statins lower cholesterol in the arteries and eyes?

Statins are drugs that help lower cholesterol. Statin use can help prevent future occurrences of cholesterol emboli. They may help improve blood circulation in your eyes.

Since they are a catalyst for cholesterol emboli, surgical treatments that address your cardiovascular system may be avoided.

Cholesterol emboli can cause vision loss. Laser surgery can be used to restore the blood flow in the eye.

Vasodilators can dilate the blood vessels in your eye.

Ocular massage can be helpful for dislodging cholesterol emboli. This manual procedure can help you. It is done to lower the eye pressure.

A painless withdrawal of fluid from the front of your eye is also helpful.

Cholesterol emboli are caused by the break off of cholesterol fragments. Small blood vessels can be seen in your eye. Cholesterol emboli in your eye can be a symptom of a bigger problem.