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Xanthoma

Skin growths - fatty; Xanthelasma

 

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

Causes

 

Xanthomas are common, especially among older adults and people with high blood lipids (fats). 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:

  • Certain cancers
  • Diabetes
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Inherited metabolic disorders, such as familial hypercholesterolemia
  • Scarring of the liver due to blocked bile ducts (primary biliary cirrhosis)
  • Inflammation and swelling of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Xanthelasma palpebra is a common type of xanthoma that appears on the eyelids. It usually occurs without any underlying medical condition.

 

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 the xanthoma. If needed, your provider will remove a sample of the growth for testing.

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 provider may remove it by surgery or with a laser, but xanthomas may come back after surgery.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

The growth is noncancerous and painless, but may be a sign of another medical condition.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your 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; 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.

Text only

 
  • Xanthoma, eruptive - close-up

    Xanthoma, eruptive - close-up - illustration

    Xanthomas are firm, raised waxy-appearing papules or bumps, which may occur on the trunk, arms, and legs, and may be skin-colored, pink, or even yellow. The presence of this type of skin lesion may be associated with abnormal levels of lipids, or fats, in the blood.

    Xanthoma, eruptive - close-up

    illustration

  • Xanthoma - close-up

    Xanthoma - close-up - illustration

    Xanthomas are lesions on the skin containing cholesterol and fats. They are often associated with inherited disorders of lipid metabolism (inherited problems with the way that fats are broken down and used).

    Xanthoma - close-up

    illustration

  • Xanthoma - close-up

    Xanthoma - close-up - illustration

    Xanthomas are raised, waxy-appearing, frequently yellowish-colored skin lesions. They may be associated with an underlying lipid (cholesterol/triglyceride) abnormality.

    Xanthoma - close-up

    illustration

  • Xanthoma on the knee

    Xanthoma on the knee - illustration

    Xanthomas are raised, waxy-appearing, frequently yellowish-colored skin lesions, seen here on the knee. These may be associated with an underlying lipid (cholesterol/triglyceride) abnormality.

    Xanthoma on the knee

    illustration

    • Xanthoma, eruptive - close-up

      Xanthoma, eruptive - close-up - illustration

      Xanthomas are firm, raised waxy-appearing papules or bumps, which may occur on the trunk, arms, and legs, and may be skin-colored, pink, or even yellow. The presence of this type of skin lesion may be associated with abnormal levels of lipids, or fats, in the blood.

      Xanthoma, eruptive - close-up

      illustration

    • Xanthoma - close-up

      Xanthoma - close-up - illustration

      Xanthomas are lesions on the skin containing cholesterol and fats. They are often associated with inherited disorders of lipid metabolism (inherited problems with the way that fats are broken down and used).

      Xanthoma - close-up

      illustration

    • Xanthoma - close-up

      Xanthoma - close-up - illustration

      Xanthomas are raised, waxy-appearing, frequently yellowish-colored skin lesions. They may be associated with an underlying lipid (cholesterol/triglyceride) abnormality.

      Xanthoma - close-up

      illustration

    • Xanthoma on the knee

      Xanthoma on the knee - illustration

      Xanthomas are raised, waxy-appearing, frequently yellowish-colored skin lesions, seen here on the knee. These may be associated with an underlying lipid (cholesterol/triglyceride) abnormality.

      Xanthoma on the knee

      illustration

     

    Review Date: 5/2/2017

    Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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