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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 in diameter. They appear anywhere on the body, but 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, a common type of xanthoma that appears on the eyelids and may occur without any underlying medical condition, is not necessarily associated with elevated cholesterol or lipids.

Symptoms

A xanthoma looks like a yellow to orange bump (papule) with defined borders.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will examine the skin. Usually, a diagnosis of xanthoma 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. 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. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 26.

Massengale WT, Hodari KF, Boh EE, Nesbitt LT Jr. Xanthomas. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 92.


Review Date: 5/15/2013
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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