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Hyperlipoproteinemia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

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What is Hyperlipoproteinemia?

Hyperlipoproteinemia occurs when there is too much lipid or fat in the blood, specifically cholesterol and triglycerides. There are several types of hyperlipoproteinemia. The type depends on the concentration of lipids and which are affected.

High levels of cholesterol or triglycerides are serious because they’re associated with heart problems.

Types of Hyperlipoproteinemia

Hyperlipoproteinemia can be a primary or secondary condition.

Primary hyperlipoproteinemia is often genetic. It’s a result of a defect or mutation in lipoproteins. These changes result in problems with accumulation of lipids in your body.

Secondary hyperlipoproteinemia is the result of other health conditions that lead to high levels of lipids in your body.

Primary Hyperlipoproteinemia

There are five types of primary hyperlipoproteinemia:

Type 1 is an inherited condition. It causes the normal breakdown of fats in your body to be disrupted. A large amount of fat builds up in your blood as a result.

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Type 2 runs in families. It’s characterized by an increase of circulating cholesterol, either low-density lipoproteins (LDL) alone or with very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). These are considered the “bad cholesterols.”

Type 3 is a recessively inherited disorder in which intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL) accumulate in your blood. IDL has a cholesterol-to-triglycerides ratio that’s higher than that for VLDL. This disorder results in high plasma levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides.

Type 4 is a dominantly inherited disorder. It’s characterized by high triglycerides contained in VLDL. The levels of cholesterol and phospholipids in your blood usually remain within normal limits.

Type 5 runs in families. It involves high levels of LDL alone or together with VLDL.

Causes of Hyperlipoproteinemia

These include:

  • diabetes
  • hypothyroidism
  • pancreatitis
  • use of certain drugs, such as contraceptives and steroids
  • certain lifestyle choices

Symptoms of Hyperlipoproteinemia

Lipid deposits are the main symptom of hyperlipoproteinemia. The location of lipid deposits can help to determine the type. Some lipid deposits, called xanthomas, are yellow and crusty. They occur on your skin.

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Many people with this condition experience no symptoms. They may become aware of it when they develop a heart condition.

Other signs and symptoms of hyperlipoproteinemia include:

  • pancreatitis (type 1)
  • abdominal pain (types 1 and 5)
  • enlarged liver or spleen (type 1)
  • lipid deposits or xanthomas (type 1)
  • family history of heart disease (types 2 and 4)
  • family history of diabetes (types 4 and 5)
  • heart attack
  • stroke

Diagnosis of Hyperlipoproteinemia

A doctor can diagnose hyperlipoproteinemia with a blood test. Sometimes, family history is useful. If you have lipid deposits on your body, your doctor will also examine those.

Other diagnostic tests might measure thyroid function, glucose, protein in the urine, liver function, and uric acid.

Prevention of Hyperlipoproteinemia

Genetic inheritance cannot be changed, but its effects may be modified with proper treatment. Family members of an individual with hyperlipoproteinemia should consider having their blood lipids assessed. The sooner any problems are identified, the better the chances of limiting or preventing the associated health risks. Anyone with a family history of disorders leading to hyperlipoproteinemia also may benefit from genetic testing and counseling to assist them in making reproductive decisions.

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Treatment of Hyperlipoproteinemia

Treatment for hyperlipoproteinemia will depend on which type you have. When the condition is the result of hypothyroidism, diabetes, or pancreatitis, treatment will take the underlying disorder into account.

Your doctor may prescribe medications like the following to help lower lipid levels:

  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • fluvastatin (Lescol XL)
  • pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • ezetimibe (Zetia)

Certain lifestyle changes can also help with hyperlipoproteinemia. These include:

  • a low-fat diet
  • increased exercise
  • weight loss
  • stress relief
  • a decrease in alcohol consumption

Consult your doctor to find out which lifestyle changes are right for your condition.

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