Dyslipidemia is characterized by high levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Diabetes is a common secondary cause of dyslipidemia. The risk of dyslipidemia is especially high in people with type-2 diabetes.
Excess free fatty acids circulating in the blood is usually attributed to insulin inactivity, poor diabetes control and obesity. However, dyslipidemia itself does not cause any symptoms. Elevated levels of lipids in the blood are suspected when ailments associated with high triglycerides and LDL levels develop. Dyslipidemia is diagnosed with serum lipid profile tests that measure the total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density cholesterol, very low-density cholesterol and high-density cholesterol levels in the blood.
Symptoms of Dyslipidemia
Deposition of fats under the skin is called xanthoma. Small xanthomas can appear on the buttock and joints, hands and feet. They may also appear around the eyelids. This skin condition is a common sign of diabetic dyslipidemia.
Arcus corneae, also known as arcus senilis, is a dyslipidemia related eye problem that may develop in diabetics. It is a white or gray ring around the margin of the cornea. Deposition of lipids in the margin of the cornea causes arcus corneae. However, vision is not affected by arcus corneae.
Coronary Artery Disease
Diabetics diagnosed with coronary artery disease usually have excess lipids in the blood. Coronary artery disease develops when the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart is clogged by plaque. Plaque is hardened fat, cholesterol and calcium and other substances. Over time, the plaque accumulating in a coronary artery narrows the blood vessel, preventing proper flow of blood.
When supply of oxygenated blood to the heart is partially obstructed, you may experience pain, discomfort and pressure in the chest, a condition called angina. The pain may radiate to the shoulders, arms, jaw, back and neck. Heart attack occurs when blood flow to a portion of heart muscle stops. The cells in the affected area of the heart muscle die if blood supply is not restored within a short time. Coronary artery disease is one of the most common heart problems in diabetics attributed to dyslipidemia.
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Deposition of plaque in the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the hands, legs, heads and other organs of the body causes peripheral artery disease. In diabetics with dyslipidemia, peripheral arterial disease usually affects the legs.
Numbness and pain in the leg can be sign of untreated diabetes or peripheral arterial disease that reduces blood flow to the legs. Poor blood circulation in the legs slows down wound healing. Poor would healing in the feet is one of the main causes of gangrene and foot amputation in diabetics.
Very high levels of triglycerides may cause acute pancreatitis. As the triglyceride levels in diabetics tend to be higher than that in non-diabetics, diabetics have a high risk of developing acute pancreatitis. When acute pancreatitis is diagnosed in a diabetic person, doctors usually recommend a serum lipid test to check the lipid status of the patient.