Symptoms of High Triglyceride Levels

Updated March 23, 2017

Triglycerides are basic form of fat present in human biology. Hypertriglyceridemia, a condition in which high levels of triglycerides are present in the human body, is often linked to high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. When higher amounts of triglycerides are present in the human body, the production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) increases and the production of high density lipoprotein (HDL) decreases. High triglyceride levels have relatively few symptoms compared to the health conditions they cause. Although symptoms are hard to spot, and generally only occur with severe high triglycerides, understanding them can help save your life.


Triglycerides are derived from either dietary fats or excess calories that have been stored in fat cells. They are released from the fat cells and used as energy throughout the body. Excess triglycerides contribute to an increase of LDL, also known as "bad" cholesterol. LDL contains more triglycerides than HDL, also known as "good" cholesterol. Although the direct cause has not been established, high triglyceride levels and high LDL levels are often found in those who have suffered from stroke and heart disease.


The most common cause of high triglyceride levels is overeating. The body needs to fast to utilise the fats ingested since the previous meal. Excess stress can cause the body to metabolise fats slower, increasing triglyceride presence. Smoking cigarettes damages the production of HDL, which the body uses to transport triglycerides into the liver to be eliminated as waste. Other contributors to high triglyceride levels are diabetes, alcohol use, lack of exercise, pancreatitis and excessive caffeine intake.

Acute Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the tissues of the pancreas that can occur in patients with triglyceride levels higher than 500 mg/dl. Pancreatitis causes severe abdominal pain and increased levels of pancreatic enzymes in the blood. It can be caused by a number of health conditions, most commonly alcohol abuse. As noted by Registered Holistic Nutritionist Andrew Mierzejewksi, the major difference in pancreatitis caused by triglyceride levels is the lack of increase in the enzyme amylase, which is used in digestion to help break down foods.

Eruptive Xanthomas

Eruptive xanthomas are pimple-like yellow bumps developing on the back, chest, elbows, knees and buttocks. These are prevalent in those with a triglyceride count above 1000 mg/dl. They are caused by chylomicrons, or microscopic particles of triglycerides released during digestion by the intestines. They often appear in larger crops or groups of eruptive xanthomas. They cause pain at acute levels.

Lipemia Retinalis

Lipemia retinalis is a condition that causes optic blood vessels and sometimes the retina to appear dull or milky. Lipemia retinalis occurs in patients exhibiting triglyceride levels of at least 2000 mg/dl. The excess triglycerides occurring in the patient's body gives the blood vessels a white tint, causing this symptom. This condition is generally only detectable through an eye examination.


The normal blood triglyceride rating, as recommended by the American Heart Association, is less than 150 mg for every decilitre of blood. A blood test administered by a doctor will accurately discern your level of blood triglycerides. Hypertriglyceridemia can be treated by switching to a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish (e.g., EPA and DHA) can help support circulatory health. The AHA recommends a calorie-, trans fat-, saturated fat- and cholesterol-reduced diet.


Exercise helps to lower triglyceride levels in the blood by metabolising them as energy. Endurance training especially causes the body to secrete lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down lipoproteins made up of triglycerides. The AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of intense physical activity 5 days per week to build the aerobic atmosphere for decreased triglyceride levels.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author