Xanthelasma polyps (cholesterol deposits) – symptoms and causes

Xanthelasma polyps

Xanthelasma polyps are yellow patches which are inside the corners of your eyelids. These patches are made up of cholesterol which is under your skin. Xanthelasma polyps are not harmful at the first time but gradually they can worsen and cause pain. If you do not want to look them, then you should ask for help from your eye doctor which can help to rid of them. But there are some cases when xanthelasma polyps are sign of a more serious underlying health problem. Xanthelasma polyps will not hurt you but this means that you are having bigger chances of getting a heart disease [1]. You should not ignore this problem and you should go to your eye doctor.

Xanthelasma polyps symptoms

For those people who do not know, xanthelasma polyps are yellowish – white lumps. They consist of fatty material which is accumulated under the skin on the inner parts of your lower and upper eyelids. They have lipids or fats in which cholesterol is included. They usually appear symmetrically between the eyes and nose. These plaques and lesions are not impairing the function of the eyelids. It means that xanthelasma polyps should not affect your ability to blink or close or open your eyes. But xanthelasma polyps can become larger over time and cause discomfort. In the most cases, they do not need to be removed unless they become uncomfortable or for some cosmetic reason. Xanthelasma polyps can be early sign that cholesterol has started to build up in the blood vessels. As the time passes, the cholesterol can form hard and sticky gunk which is called plaque in arteries. This buildup is known as atherosclerosis which can lead to stroke, heart attack or heart disease. You need to go on regular checkups so in this way you will prevent the formation of xanthelasma polyps.

Xanthelasma polyps

Xanthelasma polyps Causes

Every single person can get cholesterol deposits around his eyes. People who suffer from a lipid disorder called dyslipidemia are having higher chances of getting xanthelasma polyps. People who suffer from dyslipidemia are having too many lipids in their bloodstream such as triglycerides and some forms of cholesterol. You can have dyslipidemia if you have some of the following conditions:

  • There are can be high levels of high – density lipoprotein (HDL). This type of cholesterol is also known as good cholesterol, identified by HDL above 40 mg/dL
  • High levels of LDL (low – density lipoprotein) which is also known as bad cholesterol, identified by LDL above 100 mg/dL
  • Hypertriglyceridemia which is identified above 150 mg/dL
  • Hypercholesterolemia which is identified by total cholesterol greater than 200 mg/dL

There are many factors which can cause you to have too many lipids in your bloodstream and this in turn develops xanthelasma polyps around your eyes. Genetics can lead to it which means that you cannot do too much to prevent them [2]. Also there are other causes which are result of lifestyle choices or side effects of some medications. Here is what genetics can include:

  • Familiar dyslipoproteinemia. This is a genetic condition that is causing people to have higher amounts of lipids in their blood
  • Familiar hypertriglyceridemia which is a genetic condition that is causing people to have higher amounts of triglycerides in their blood
  • There can be a deficiency of familial lipoprotein lipase. This is an enzyme that breaks down lipids

Here is what lifestyle factors can include:

  • Smoking [3]
  • A diet low in fiber [4]
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of cardiovascular exercise
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Diets high in saturated fats and low in unsaturated fats [5]

Here are some medications which can increase your risk of developing cholesterol deposits around your eyes:

  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Protease inhibitors
  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Retinoids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Estrogen – containing medications
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Beta blockers

There are some conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism and kidney disease which can lead to development of cholesterol deposits. This is possible because the mentioned conditions are increasing the lipid concentration in your blood. There are some cases when the cause for dyslipidemia is not known.


[1] O’Riordan M. Xanthelasma linked with MI and ischemic heart disease. MedScape. 2010. Retrieved from www.medscape.com/viewarticle/733064

[2] Genetics Education in Medicine (GEM) Consortium. Genetics in family medicine: The Australian handbook for general practitioners. 2007.

[3] Görgülü O, Ozdemir S, Canbolat EP, et al. Analysis of the roles of smoking and allergy in nasal polyposis. Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology. 2012;121(9):615-9.

[4] Vanhauwaert E, Matthys C, Verdonck L, De Preter V. Low-residue and low-fiber diets in gastrointestinal disease management. Advances in Nutrition. 2015;6(6):820–7.

[5] Ribera M, Pinto X, Argimon JM, et al. Lipid metabolism and apolipoprotein E phenotypes in patients with xanthelasma. The American Journal of Medicine. 1995;99(5):485-90.


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