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Xanthelasma and Xanthoma

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

Definition

Xanthoma is a condition in which fatty deposits form beneath the skin. They range from very small to up to 3 inches in size. Xanthomas can be cosmetically disfiguring. Xanthomas may appear anywhere on the body, but are most frequently found on the elbows, joints, tendons, knees, hands, feet, and buttocks.

Xanthelasma is a form of xanthoma that appears on the eyelids.

Causes    TOP

Xanthoma is typically caused by:

  • Elevated levels of fats in the blood
  • Metabolic disorders including:
    • Diabetes
    • Primary biliary cirrhosis
    • Inherited metabolic disorders like high levels of cholesterol in the blood
    • Some cancers

Although xanthelasma may be associated with high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, it can occur without cholesterol problems.

Risk Factors    TOP

Xanthoma is more common in older adults. Factors that may increase your chance of xanthoma include:

  • Having a metabolic disorder listed above
  • Having extremely high cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels

Symptoms    TOP

Xanthoma may cause:

  • Bumps under the skin
  • Skin lesions that are:
    • Many different shapes
    • Yellow to orange
    • Have well-defined borders

Xanthomas may be tender, itchy, and painful.

Diagnosis    TOP

Xanthoma is usually diagnosed by examining the skin growths. A biopsy of the tissue will confirm a fatty deposit.

Skin Biopsy

Skin proceedure
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

A blood lipid profile and other tests may be done to determine the underlying condition responsible for the appearance of xanthomas.

Treatment    TOP

Treating xanthoma consists of treating and controlling the underlying health conditions that cause the fatty deposits to develop. Better control of the metabolic disorders that can lead to xanthoma can reduce their occurrence.

Xanthomas that are removed can return after treatment.

Other treatment options for xanthomas include:

Surgery

Surgery may be used to remove the fatty deposits.

Laser

Laser surgery with CO2 laser, pulse-dye laser, or Erbium-YAG laser can be done.

Chemical    TOP

Treatment with trichloroacetic acid may also be used to treat xanthomas.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce the chances of xanthoma:

  • Keep blood lipids and cholesterol at a healthy level
  • Keep metabolic disorders well-controlled

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology
http://www.aad.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

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

References:

Shapiro M. Rare Genetic Disorders Altering Lipoproteins. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. 2015 Jun 12.
Xanthomas. DermNet NZ website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 8, 2014. Accessed May 16, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 8/27/2014

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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