Table of Contents
Definition of Xanthoma
In their most common form, xanthomas appear as yellowish blebs beneath the skin, typically rounded or oblong, that protrude as nodules or papules. Xanthomas that form on the eyelids, a common presentation, are xanthelasmas.
Most xanthomas do not cause symptoms though may be cosmetically undesirable. Eruptive xanthomas may occur in clusters, typically occurring on the shoulders and inner surfaces of the arms, and often itch.
The most significant feature of xanthoma is the underlying lipid disorder, which signals increased risk for CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE (CAD) and HEART ATTACK. Many people who develop xanthomas have familial lipid disorders that result in unusually elevated levels of triglycerides and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C) or low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). These elevations are markers for serious CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE (CVD) and require prompt medical treatment. Lowering the blood lipid levels helps prevent further xanthomas from developing, though has no effect on existing xanthomas.
A xanthoma may create functional interference depending on its location. Xanthelasmas on or near the eyelids can interfere with proper vision, for example, and xanthomas on the hands may cause irritation and PAIN during tasks that require manual dexterity. Many people choose to have xanthomas removed for cosmetic purposes. Several options are available for removing xanthomas, including cryotherapy (freezing), electrodesiccation (cauterizing), excision (cutting out), and LASER SURGERY. The site usually heals without scarring, although xanthomas tend to recur.
See also CHOLESTEROL BLOOD LEVELS; DIABETES; MEDICATIONS TO TREAT CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE; NODULE; PANCREATITIS; PAPULE; PRURITUS; RISK FACTORS FOR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE; TRIGLYCERIDE BLOOD LEVELS; XANTHELASMA.