Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Xanthelasma and Xanthoma

Pronounced: Zan-tha-las-ma; zan-tho-muh

Definition

Fatty lumps under the skin are called xanthomas. They range from very small to up to 3 inches in size. Xanthomas can be cosmetically disfiguring. Xanthomas may appear anywhere on the body. The most common places are the elbows, joints, tendons, knees, hands, feet, and buttocks.

If the fatty lumps are on the eyelids, it’s called xanthelasma.

Causes ^

Causes of xanthomas are:

Xanthelasma is connected to high fat levels in the blood. But, you can still have it without these problems.

Risk Factors ^

Xanthoma is more common in older adults. Your chances are higher if you:

  • Have one of the metabolic problems listed above
  • Have very high cholesterol or triglyceride levels

Symptoms ^

Xanthomas may cause:

  • Bumps under the skin, which may be:
    • Tender
    • Itchy
    • Painful
  • Skin bumps that:
    • Are many different shapes
    • Are yellow to orange
    • Have well-defined borders

Diagnosis ^

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a skin exam will point to having xanthomas. You may also have:

  • A physical exam
  • A biopsy to check the fatty lumps
  • Blood tests to check cholesterol and to look for other causes

Skin Biopsy
Skin proceedure

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Treatment ^

Xanthomas may go away on their own. Care depends on what’s causing them. This approach helps lower the chances of having them come back. Care may involve:

  • Changes in you diet to lower the amount of fat
  • Medicines to manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Options for removal may involve:

  • Laser vaporization—different types of light can be used
  • Applying chemicals to the affected area
  • Surgery to cut them out

If you have them removed, it’s possible they will come back.

Prevention ^

To help lower your chances of xanthomas, follow your care plan if you have high cholesterol or other metabolic problems.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology
http://www.aad.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Dermatology Association
https://www.dermatology.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Shapiro M. Rare Genetic Disorders Altering Lipoproteins. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-2015 Jun 12.

Hypertriglyceridemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website.http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115419/Hypertriglyceridemia. Updated June 4, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2018.

Xanthoma. DermNet NZ website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/xanthoma. Accessed June 20, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD  Last Updated: 6/20/2018