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Xanthoma is a skin condition in which certain fats build up under the surface of the skin.


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 in diameter. They appear anywhere on the body, but 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, a common type of xanthoma that appears on the eyelids and may occur without any underlying medical condition, is not necessarily associated with elevated cholesterol or lipids.


A xanthoma looks like a yellow to orange bump (papule) with defined borders.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will examine the skin. Usually, a diagnosis of xanthoma 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.


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. 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.


Control of blood lipids, including triglycerides and cholesterol levels, may help reduce development of xanthomas.

Alternative Names

Skin growths - fatty; Xanthelasma


Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 26.

Massengale WT, Hodari KF, Boh EE, Nesbitt LT Jr. Xanthomas. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 92.

Update Date 5/15/2013

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