Xanthomas are accumulations of fat below the surface of the skin. They are characterized by blistering yellow or orange bumps (in some patients they can have brown, cream or reddish colour) with a well-defined outline and more commonly occur in the elderly and in the presence of high levels of lipids in the blood. The lipids accumulate in large foam cells in the skin. These bumps can have a widely varying size and they most often appear on the eyelids, but can be located on all other parts of the body: the elbows, palms, the neck, the joints, the tendons, the knees, the hands, the feet and buttocks, the bones, the heart, liver, blood vessels, and other organs.

The ones that develop on the eyelids are called xanthelasmas and are not necessarily associated with an increase in cholesterol or other blood fats. These usually appear in older persons. The so-called eruptive xanthomas can occur suddenly on any other part of the body mentioned. These are signs of too high blood fat levels.

The cause of eyelid xanthomas is not known, while the causes of the eruptive type can be several diseases that have to be checked by your doctor. In some cases, xanthomas are signs of a disease that leads to increased blood lipids, such as diabetes, familial hypercholesterolemia, primary biliary cirrhosis, pancreatitis, hypothyroidism, and some forms of cancer.

In the presence of xanthomas, a doctor may examine the skin and possibly perform a biopsy of the xanthoma in order to get definitive results. Moreover, the patient may undergo blood tests to check for lipid levels, liver function and diabetes.


What diseases can be associated with xanthomas?

The diseases that may be associated with xanthomas include the following:


  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder calcifications
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Certain type of cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Smallpox
  • Inherited metabolic disorders such as familial hypercholesterolemia


It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and it would always be better to consult your doctor if symptoms persist.


What are the remedies against xanthomas?

Xanthomas may be surgically removed, but they tend to reform. The best remedy is to take action, and if possible, determine and treat the underlying cause of their formation. In case of eyelid xanthomas, no treatment is necessary except for the sake of cosmetic reasons, in which case, topical acid, or laser surgery with no side-effects. Treating any condition that leads to increased blood lipids may in fact help reduce the risk of developing a xanthoma. The best way to treat cholesterol is to start with dietary control and take a natural approach. To this end, physical activity should be included, healthy diet ans proper supplementation. If this does not give results, cholesterol lowering medications can be added in order to stop further development of xanthomas.


When to contact your doctor?

The moment any xanthoma develops is a good time to consult your doctor, because its development could be a sign of an underlying disease that requires specific treatment.