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St. Petersburg General Hospital

Xanthelasma and Xanthoma


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 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.


Xanthoma is typically caused by:

  • Elevated levels of fats in the blood
  • Metabolic disorders including:

Although xanthelasma may be associated with high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, it can occur without cholesterol problems.

Risk Factors

Xanthoma is more common in older adults. Factors that may increase your chance of xanthoma include:

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


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.


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.


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 may be used to remove the fatty deposits.


Laser surgery with CO2 laser, pulse-dye laser, or Erbium-YAG laser can be done.


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


To help reduce your chances of xanthoma:

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

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Dermatology

  • Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

  • Canadian Dermatology Association

  • HealthLinkBC

  • Feingold K, Castro G, et al. Cutaneous xanthoma in association with paraproteinemia in the absence of hyperlipidemia. J Clin Invest. 1989 Mar;83(3):796-802.

  • Xanthomas. DermNet NZ website. Available at: Updated November 8, 2014. Accessed June 4, 2015.