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What are the symptoms of cholesterol problems?

A high level of cholesterol in the blood doesn't have obvious symptoms, but it can increase your risk of conditions that do have symptoms, including heart disease, stroke and other circulatory problems.

The first most people know about having high cholesterol is when it is detected during routine blood tests. However, high cholesterol is sometimes called a 'silent killer' as others don’t know about their cholesterol problem until they develop other problems or have a heart attack. Also:

  • Soft, yellowish growths or lesions on the skin called xanthelasma may indicate a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol.
  • Many people who are obese or have diabetes also have high cholesterol.
  • In men, erectile dysfunction (impotence) may be due to arteries affected by excessive blood cholesterol.


Just because no symptoms are experienced if a person forgets to take their medication for high cholesterol, that doesn’t mean it is no longer needed.

A survey of heart disease patients by the British Heart Foundation in 2012 found that more than a third of people with high cholesterol fail to take their prescribed medication, increasing the risk of heart problems.

Seek medical advice about heart disease if:

You detect soft, yellowish skin growths on yourself or on your children. Ask about being tested for high cholesterol.

Seek urgent medical advice if:

You develop symptoms of chest pain, pressure, or fullness; dizziness; unsteady gait; slurred speech; or pain in the lower legs especially on exercising.

Any of these conditions may be associated with high cholesterol, and each requires immediate medical intervention.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 19, 2016

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