Definitions

Hypertriglyceridemia

Hypertriglyceridemia

In medicine, hypertriglyceridemia (or "Hypertriglyceridaemia") denotes high (hyper-) blood levels (-emia) of triglycerides, the most abundant fatty molecule in most organisms. It has been associated with atherosclerosis, even in the absence of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels). It can also lead to pancreatitis in excessive concentrations. Very high triglyceride levels may also interfere with blood tests; hyponatremia may be reported spuriously (pseudohyponatremia).

A related term is "hyperglyceridemia" or "hyperglyceridaemia", which refers to a high level of all glycerides, including monoglycerides, diglycerides and triglycerides.

Signs and symptoms

Modestly elevated triglyceride levels do not lead to any physical symptoms. Higher levels are associated with lipemia retinalis (white appearance of the retina), eruptive xanthomas (small lumps in the skin, sometimes itchy).

Causes

Treatment

Treatment of hypertriglyceridemia is by restriction of carbohydrates and fat in the diet, as well as with niacin, fibrates and statins (three classes of drugs). Increased fish oil intake may substantially lower an individual's triglycerides.

Clinical practice guidelines by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) suggests that pharmacotherapy be considered with a triglycerides level over 200 mg/dl. The guidelines state "the sum of LDL + VLDL cholesterol (termed non-HDL cholesterol [total cholesterol - HDL cholesterol]) as a secondary target of therapy in persons with high triglycerides (200 mg/dL). The goal for non-HDL cholesterol in persons with high serum triglycerides can be set at 30 mg/dL higher than that for LDL cholesterol (Table 9) on the premise that a VLDL cholesterol level 30 mg/dL is normal."

Primary prevention

In the Helsinki Heart Study, a randomized controlled trial of asymptomatic men ages 40-55 without heart disease, 600 mg of gemfibrozil twice daily reduced cardiac endpoints at 5 years from 4.14% to 2.73%. This means that 54 patients must be treated for five years to prevent one cardiac event (number needed to treat is 54).

Secondary prevention

In the Veterans Affairs High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Intervention Trial Study (VA-HIT), a randomized controlled trial of men with known heart disease HDL cholesterol of 40 mg/dl or less , 600 mg of gemfibrozil twice daily reduced cardiac endpoints (nonfatal myocardial infarction or death from coronary causes) at 5 years from 21.7% to 17.3%. This means that 23 patients must be treated for five years to prevent one cardiac event (number needed to treat is 23).

References

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