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Alternative Names Return to topSkin growths - fatty; Xanthelasma
Definition Return to top
Xanthoma is a skin condition in which fat builds up under the surface of the skin.
Causes Return to top
Xanthomas are common, particularly among older adults and persons with high blood lipids.
Xanthomas vary in size. Some are very small, while others are bigger than 3 inches in diameter. They may appear anywhere on the body, but are most often seen on the elbows, joints, tendons, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks.
They 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.
Symptoms Return to top
A xanthoma looks like a sore or bump under the skin. It's usually flat, soft to the touch, and yellow in color. It has sharp, distinct edges.
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your doctor will examine the skin. Usually, your doctor can diagnose a xanthoma simply by looking at your skin. A biopsy of the growth will show a fatty deposit.
Treatment Return to top
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. However, xanthomas may come back after surgery.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The growth is non-cancerous and painless, but may be a sign of another medical condition.
Possible Complications Return to top
The growth may cause a change in how you look. This is called cosmetic disfiguring.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if xanthomas develop. They may indicate an underlying disorder that needs treatment.
Prevention Return to top
Control of blood lipids, including triglycerides and cholesterol levels, may help to reduce development of xanthomas.
References Return to top
Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2004.
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2004.Update Date: 4/16/2007 Updated by: Michael S. Lehrer, M.D., Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.