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Xanthoma

  • Definition
    • Xanthoma is a skin condition in which certain fats build up under the surface of the skin.

  • Alternative Names
    • Skin growths - fatty; Xanthelasma

  • Causes
    • Xanthomas are common, especially among older adults and people with high blood lipids.

      Xanthomas vary in size. Some are very small. Others are bigger than 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) in diameter. They appear anywhere on the body. But, they are most often seen on the elbows, joints, tendons, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks.

      Xanthomas may be a sign of a medical condition that involves an increase in blood lipids. Such conditions include:

      Xanthelasma palpebra is a common type of xanthoma that appears on the eyelids. It may occur without any underlying medical condition and may not be linked with a high cholesterol or lipid level.

  • Symptoms
    • A xanthoma looks like a yellow to orange bump (papule) with defined borders. There may be several individual ones or they may form clusters.

  • Exams and Tests
    • Your health care provider will examine the skin. Usually, a diagnosis can be made by looking at your skin. A biopsy of the growth will show a fatty deposit.

      You may have blood tests done to check lipid levels, liver function, and for diabetes.

  • Treatment
    • If you have a disease that causes increased blood lipids, treating the condition may help reduce the development of xanthomas.

      If the growth bothers you, your doctor may remove it by surgery or with a laser, but xanthomas may come back after surgery.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • The growth is non-cancerous and painless, but may be a sign of another medical condition.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your health care provider if xanthomas develop. They may indicate an underlying disorder that needs treatment.

  • Prevention
    • Control of blood lipids, including triglycerides and cholesterol levels, may help reduce development of xanthomas.

  • References
    • Habif TP. Cutaneous manifestations of internal disease. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2016:chap 26.

      White LE, Horenstein MG, Shea CR. Xanthomas. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 248.