Xanthoma – Types, symptoms, causes and risk factors


The name of this condition comes from the Greek language where the term “xanthos” means yellow. Xanthomas are rich with cholesterol and they can appear on any part of our bodies and they appear in different states. When some fats build up under the surface of your skin, then this condition is known as xanthoma. Also this condition is known as xanthelasma and skin growths – fatty.

Types of xanthoma

Here are the types of this condition:

  • Tuberoeruptive xanthoma
  • Palmar xanthoma
  • Xanthoma planum
  • Eruptive xanthoma
  • Xanthoma tendinosum
  • Xanthoma tuberosum
  • xanthelasma

Causes for xanthoma: The growths can appear on any part of your body, but usually they appear on your buttocks, hands, feet and joints (especially the elbows and knees). They can vary in size. In some cases they can be large as a grape and in other cases they can be small as a pinhead. When you have xanthomas, then they look like a flat bump under your skin and in some cases they appear orange or yellow. Xanthomas in the most cases are not causing you any kind of pain. But they can be itchy and tender. Also when you have xanthoma, then you can have several individual growths on different parts of the body or clusters of growths in the same area. When you have high levels of fats or blood lipids, then they can cause you xanthomas [1]. If you have xanthoma, then this can be result of some underlying medical condition such as

  • Side effect of certain medications, such as tamoxifen, prednisone and cyclosporine
  • Cancer is a serious condition in which malignant cells grow at an uncontrolled and rapid rate [2]
  • Hematologic disease such as monoclonal gammopathy metabolic disorders. These are genetic types of conditions that affect the body’s ability to break down substances and to maintain important bodily functions, such as digestion of fats. [3]
  • Nephrotic syndrome which is a disorder that damages the blood vessels in the kidneys [4]
  • Cholestasis is a condition in which the flow of bile from the liver slows or stops [5]
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis is a type of disease in which your bile ducts in the liver are slowly destroyed
  • Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid does not produce hormones [6]
  • Diabetes is a group of diseases that causes high blood sugar levels [6]
  • Hyperlipimedia which is the same term as high blood cholesterol levels

This is not a dangerous kind of disease but the underlying causes need to be cured.  Also there is another type of xanthoma which is known as xanthelasma that is affecting the eyelids. We can say that the most common causes for xanthoma are heredity hyperlipidemia, hyperlipidemia and high blood fats. Also there are other possible causes for xanthoma such as glycogenosis type 1a, autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia, alagille syndrome and cholestanol storage disease. You should control the cholesterol and triglyceride levels because in this way you can reduce the risk of getting xanthoma.

Risk for getting xanthomas: If you suffer from any of the mentioned medical conditions, then you have increased risk of getting xanthomas. If you have high triglyceride levels or high cholesterol levels, then you have increased chances of getting xanthomas. You should talk with your doctor if you think that you have risk for getting xanthomas. Also your doctor can tell you how to minimize your chances for getting xanthoma.


Symptoms of xanthoma

There are six main symptoms of the xanthoma which are given below

  • Yellow lumps on knee
  • Yellow lumps on elbow
  • Yellow lumps on joints
  • Eyelid yellow lumps (xanthelasma)
  • Yellow bumps on the skin
  • Fatty deposits under the skin

Your doctor will examine your skin and he or she will tell you if you have xanthomas. Also your doctor will make you skin biopsy because in this way your doctor will tell you if you have fatty deposit beneath your skin. When someone suffers from xanthoma, then the underlying condition must be treated because if you do not treat it, then xanthomas can return again. You should eat healthy foods, take any necessary medications for your condition and also you should exercise regularly if you want to prevent the risk of getting xanthoma. [7]


[1] NYU Langone Health. Diagnosing lipid disorders. Retrieved from nyulangone.org/conditions/lipid-disorders-in-adults/diagnosis

[2] Moumin FA, Mohamed AA, Osman AA, Cai J. Gastric xanthoma associated with gastric cancer development: An updated review.
Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2020;2020:3578927.

[3] Szalat R, Arnulf B, Karlin L, et al. Pathogenesis and treatment of xanthomatosis associated with monoclonal gammopathy. Blood. 2011;118(14):3777–84.

[4] St. Geme JW, Orkin M, Vernier RL. Eruptive xanthomas associated with the nephrotic syndrome. The American Journal of Diseases of Children. 1960;99(6):778-82.

[5] Pearson HJ, Mosser JL, Jacks SK. The triad of pruritus, xanthomas, and cholestasis: Two cases and a brief review of the literature. Pediatric Dermatology. 2017;34(6):e305-e308.

[6] Park JR, Jung TS, Jung JH, et al. A case of hypothyroidism and type 2 diabetes associated with type V hyperlipoproteinemia and eruptive xanthomas. Journal of Korean Medical Science. 2005;20(3):502–5.

[7] Mann S, Beedie C, Jimenez A. Differential effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training and combined exercise modalities on cholesterol and the lipid profile: Review, synthesis and recommendations. Sports Medicine. 2014;44(2):211–21.


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