Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

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 (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:

Xanthelasma palpebra is a common type of xanthoma that appears on the eyelids. It may occur without any underlying medical condition and may not be linked with a high cholesterol or lipid level.

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 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 by surgery or with a laser, 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. Cutaneous manifestations of internal disease. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 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.

Review Date:4/14/2015
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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, 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.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Health
Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No