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 are not painful or dangerous, but 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

Xanthoma is typically caused by:

    
  • Elevated levels of fats in the blood
  • Metabolic disorders including:     
  • Diabetes
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Some cancers
  • Inherited metabolic disorders like high levels of cholesterol in the blood
  • Although xanthelasma may be associated with high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, it can occur without cholesterol problems.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of xanthoma include:

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

    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

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

    Skin Biopsy

    Skin proceedure

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

    Treatment

    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 performed.

    Chemical

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

    Prevention

    To help reduce your chances of xanthoma:

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