Navigate Up

Orthopaedics Center - A-Z Index

#
I
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Familial hypertriglyceridemia

Familial hypertriglyceridemia is a common disorder passed down through families in which the level of triglycerides (a type of fat) in a person's blood are higher than normal.

The condition is not associated with a significant increase in cholesterol levels.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Familial hypertriglyceridemia is caused by a genetic defect, which is passed on in an autosomal dominant fashion. This means that if you get a bad copy of the gene from just one of your parents, you will have the condition.

Some people with this condition also have high levels of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL). The reason for the rise in triglycerides and VLDL is not understood.

Familial hypertriglyceridemia does not usually become noticeable until puberty or early adulthood. Obesity, hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), and high levels of insulin are often also present and may cause even higher triglyceride levels. Alcohol and estrogen use can make the condition worse.

You are more likely to have this condition if you have a family history of hypertriglyceridemia or heart disease before age 50.

Symptoms

You may not notice any symptoms. Some people with the condition may have coronary artery disease at an early age.

Signs and tests

The doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your family history and symptoms.

If you have a family history of this condition, you should have blood tests to check very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and triglyceride levels. Blood tests usually show a mild to moderate increase in triglycerides (about 200 to 500 mg/dL).

A coronary risk profile may also be done.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to control conditions that can raise triglyceride levels such as obesity , hypothyroidism , and diabetes .

Your doctor may tell you not to drink alcohol. Because certain birth control pills can raise triglyceride levels, you should carefully discuss their use with your doctor.

Treatment also involves avoiding excess calories and foods high in saturated fats and carbohydrates. See also: Heart disease and diet

Healthy diet

If high triglyceride levels persist despite diet changes, medication may be needed. Nicotinic acid, gemfibrozil, and fenofibrate have been shown to lower triglyceride levels in people with this condition.

Expectations (prognosis)

Losing weight and keeping diabetes under control helps improve the outcome.

Complications

  • Pancreatitis
  • Coronary artery disease

Prevention

Screening family members for high triglycerides may detect the disease early.

References

Genest J, Libby P. Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA:Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 47.

Semenkovich, CF. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 213.

Updated: 6/4/2012

David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com