Regular Chest Pain Can Be A Symptom For Cholesterol Embolism? Know Cause, Risks And Treatment For The Syndrome

Cholesterol embolism can cause severe cardiovascular disease. Know the cause, symptoms and treatments to prevent it.

Puru Bansal
Written by: Puru BansalPublished at: Jul 01, 2021Updated at: Jul 01, 2021
Regular Chest Pain Can Be A Symptom For Cholesterol Embolism? Know Cause, Risks And Treatment For The Syndrome

We have always heard that excessive cholesterol can be very harmful for our health. It can cause many complications and lead to many disorders as well. Cholesterol Embolism is one example of that, it is syndrome that can cause heart attacks, pain, headaches, stroke and many more complications. It is also called atheroembolism or cholesterol emobolization syndrome. This syndrome blocks the arteries thus causing break in flow of blood. Symptoms of this disease can vary according to the vessels that it has affected. Today we will know about this disease in detail from Dr. Sumeet Nigam, General Physician in Sahara Hospital, Lucknow.

What is Cholesterol Embolism?

When crystal of cholesterol breaks from the plaque deposit and goes inside one of your arteries and block the flow of blood, then it is called cholesterol embolism. It can happen in any of your arteries and cause blockage. Cholesterol crystals usually travel through your bloodstream and block a smaller artery which infects the organs and can even result in death if immediate attention is not given. People often get cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, stroke, and chest pain in this syndrome. It affects kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin and even brain. Symptoms of cholesterol embolism are similar to heart stroke in severe cases and it is best to consult your doctor if any symptoms are visible.


Symptoms of Cholesterol Embolism

Common symptoms which are often visible in case of cholesterol embolism are-

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain

If the blockage gets worse, then the symptoms may also get severe and thus result to-

  • Skin ulcers
  • Foot or toe pain
  • Skin discoloration
  • Kidney failure symptoms
  • Sudden blindness
  • Spots around nails
  • Headache
  • Stroke
  • Diarrhea 
  • Pain or bleeding in Gastrointestinal tract


What Causes Cholesterol Embolism?

Those who have atherosclerosis are highly affected by cholesterol embolism. Atherosclerosis is a disease that narrow downs your arteries that result in cholesterol crystals getting stuck in there and causing the syndrome. It is the major cause of cholesterol embolism and is directly related to development of cholesterol embolism. Around 80% of the cases that occur have endovascular procedure as the cause behind it. 

Endovascular procedures are performed to for the following problems-

  1. Heart valve replacement
  2. Stent placement
  3. Insertion of cardiac catheter
  4. Carotid endarterectomy

All of these procedures include something getting inserted in the blood vessels which narrow downs the path for blood. So when the crystal gets broken from plaque, it gets stuck in one of these paths and cause cholesterol embolism to occur.

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Who is at Risk of Developing Cholesterol Embolism?

There are multiple factors that can increase the risk of developing cholesterol embolism. Males have higher tendency of developing this syndrome as compared to females. Other risk factors include-

1.Age factor

2.High cholesterol

3.High blood pressure


5.Peripheral vascular diseases

6.Kidney failure

7.Abdominal aortic aneurysm

8.Systemic inflammation

9.Thrombolytic therapy


11.Anticoagulation medications

How can you Treat Cholesterol Embolism?

Unfortunately, there are no particular treatment options available that can treat cholesterol embolism. However there are medications and methods to control your symptoms and risk factors that can lead to cholesterol embolism. Some ways through which this syndrome can be controlled are-


Symptoms of skin and kidney disorder can be regulated and controlled with the help of statins. These are medications to reduce inflammation in the body and lower down LDL cholesterol levels that can help you stabilize plaque in your arteries. Aspirin, vasodilators, anti-platelet medicines and haemostatic drugs are given for this.


Renal replacement therapy

Half of the people suffering from cholesterol embolism go through renal replacement therapy to filter blood as the kidneys are unable to work effectively. This can include-

  • Dialysis
  • Hemofiltration
  • Hemodiafiltration
  • Kidney transplant

Surgery method

There are some bypass surgeries that can remove the blockage. However doctors prefer to take surgery option only when they feel that patient can be at high risk of heart failure. Angioplasty and stent implantation are used to treat people having blockage. Although it can lead to complications which can further affect your health.

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Cholesterol Embolism can be very troublesome and can lead to complications like heart stroke, renal failure, heart attack etc. This syndrome occurs when a cholesterol crystal breaks from plaque accumulated and goes into arteries. It gets stuck in small arteries causing blockage which causes this health syndrome. Consult your doctor as soon as you observe any symptoms of this disease. Many other cardiovascular diseases also result in this condition and hence taking precautions becomes necessary. There is no particular treatment to stop cholesterol embolism but there are methods through which symptoms of it can be controlled and prevented.

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