Cholesterol Deposits On, Under, Around Eyes, Eyelids, Pictures

Xanthelasma and corneal arcus are two signs of elevated blood cholesterol that may be evident on the eye or eyelids. While it is not present in every case of hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol) or hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids- triglycerides + cholesterol), the presence of xanthelasma or a corneal arcus should warrant further investigation for alterations of the blood lipids. There are other disorders of the blood lipids that may cause xanthelasma or corneal arcus. Similarly, these signs may be seen in a person without any disorder of the blood lipids.

Overall these eye and eyelid signs are not common in hypercholesterolemia and hyperlipidemia. In addition, it does not cause any discomfort or affect the functioning of the eye and eyelids. It is more often an aesthetic issue (cosmetic) among patients.

Elevated levels of cholesterol may not cause any overt signs or symptoms for a long period of time. However, hypercholesterolemia may arise secondary to other disorders. In this instance, xanthelasmas or corneal arcus in a patient with the following conditions should raise the concern of secondary hypercholesterolemia :

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Pregnancy
  • Cholestatic liver disease (refer to causes of cholestatic jaundice)
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Prescription drugs like corticosteroids, cyclosporin and diuretics
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Central obesity

Both xanthelasma and corneal arcus are non-specific signs, especially in the elderly, but should raise concerns about hypercholesterolemia in younger age groups, particularly children. It is not a means to diagnose hypercholesterolemia and the relevant cholesterol blood tests needs to be conducted.

Cholesterol on Eyelids, Around or Under the Eye


Xanthelasma palpebrarum is the yellow plaque of cholesterol evident on the eyelids or periorbital area. It tends to occur in the medial aspects of the eye – that is the area closer to the inner canthus or towards the nose. It is also more common on the upper eyelid although it may occur on both sides and on both upper and lower eyelids simultaneously. These plaques, often described as lumps, are soft or semi-solid. It may become a bit harder in prolonged cases.

Xanthelasma Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Xanthomas, which are cholesterol deposits in the skin at the pressure spots like knees, elbows, heels and buttocks, are also often present along with xanthelasma palpebrarum.

Cholesterol Deposits Removal

Attempts to remove a deposit within the home environment should never be considered. Scarring and infection are some of the consequences of removal at the hands of an untrained person. There are a number of medical procedures for the removal of xanthelasma including :

  • surgical excision
  • laser coblation
  • chemical cauterization
  • electrodesiccation and cryotherapy (“freezing”)

Cholesterol On or In the Eye

Corneal Arcus

This is a pale yellow (or creamy yellow) discoloration of the cornea at the boundary with the iris. It is composed of deposits of cholesterol crystals. Dark rings around the iris is a sign of  Wilson’s disease and is known as Kayser-Fleischer rings. These rings are due to the accumulation of copper should not be mistaken for cholesterol crystals.

Corneal Arcus Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Lipemia retinalis is the pale pink or “milky” appearance of the blood vessels of the retina that can be seen upon conducting an opthalmologic examination (“eye exam”). This is more frequently seen in patients with hypertriglceridemia (elevated triglycerides) rather than hypercholesterolemia.

Corneal arcus may be seen in adults and children and is not always associated with abnormality of the lipids. If seen in children, however, it should prompt further investigation for homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia.

Related Articles

  1. What is Cholesterol?
  2. What are Lipids?
  3. Cholesterol Blood Tests


  1. Xanthelasma. Emedicine

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  • black eye

    Hi,,I have these two marks on the bridge of my nose toward the eyes..I was told they are due to cholestral..they are hideous and make me not happy! I was told to get them removed by an eye doctor or dermatologist. I see that this previous posting about doing your own needle may work..after all isn’t that what the Doctor will do? Take a sterilized needle and push it out? I am going to sterilize my sewing needle tomorrow and get them out once and for all! And live to write about it..

    • Dr. Chris

      Black Eye,

      I am not sure if your read the article carefully.

      It says “Attempts to remove a deposit within the home environment should never be considered. Scarring and infection are some of the consequences of removal at the hands of an untrained person. ” NEVER BE CONSIDERED.

      This means that you should NOT do this procedure at home. Despite saying this, many people still try to do so and will continue trying to do it in order to save money by not going to a doctor or attempting to do a “better” job than the doctor.

      You should see your doctor or dermatologist.

  • I have had this above one eye for the last few years. Im 35. My mum also has them above both she is 53, her GP told her it was cholesterol and no medication was given. If I have the same, could it be familia hypercholesterolemia? And if so should it be treated with medication. I don’t want to visit my GP. I went about some lumps under my scalp before to be told “they are sebacious cysts what do you expect me to do about them”. should I go or would I be wasting his time?

    • I would recommend that both you and your mother see a specialist physician. Firstly blood tests need to be conducted to verify your LDL and HDL levels. And then medication may be started. In your Mum’s case, medication is very important since her age also puts her at additional risk of conditions like coronary artery disease. It may be possible that what you have is not cholesterol deposits but rather get a specialist opinion.

    • Jeff Nunurbiz

      If my GP talked to me like that I would find a different GP.

  • Susan DuBois

    I have several small bumps around my eye area. I have asked two different doctors what they are and they both seem to think they are cholesterol deposits and pretty much dismiss it…oh these are VA doctors as I am a disabled vet. From what I have read and the pictures they don’t seem to be cholesterol deposits! One is above my eyelid, is about the size of a pencil point, white in color and is hard and raised. Then another one is on the lower inner rim of the opposite eye. Any idea what these are and how I can get rid of them?

    • Hi Susan. There are several different types of lesions that could affect the eyelid. It does sound like this may be cholesterol deposits from what you say but it may also be chalazion or cyst. It is really difficult to say based on your report. The only way o know for sure is to follow up with an eye specialist (opthamologist). Speak to your doctor about a possible referral.