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Xanthelasma is a condition where lipids, especially cholesterol, build up under the skin. The result is a characteristic eruption of white to yellow nodules or disc-shaped marks. These marks, called xanthelasmata, are removable using a variety of dermatology treatments, but they are a cause of concern, as they can indicate elevated levels of lipids in the bloodstream. This can suggest that the patient is at risk of heart disease and other conditions related to elevated blood lipid levels.
One very common form is xanthelasma palpebrarum, which appears around or on the eyelids. Many people find this form of the condition particularly embarrassing and disfiguring, since it is so readily visible to observers. People can also develop it on other parts of their body as well, however, and they should be checked for now and then, along with other changes to the skin that can indicate health problems.
There appears to be a genetic component to xanthelasma, which is more common among Asians and people of Mediterranean extraction. This condition is probably genetically linked because high blood lipid levels can have a genetic component; those who are predisposed to higher levels of cholesterol and other lipids in their blood may run an increased risk of developing it. The nodules themselves are generally harmless, although sometimes irritating.
Common methods of removal include the use of electrocautery devices or chemocautery tools, along with things like liquid nitrogen, which freeze the nodules off. It is also possible to use lasers, chemical peels, and surgical excision techniques to remove them. Patients should be aware that recurrence is common, however, especially if the underlying high lipid level is not addressed.
An individual who notices a xanthelasmata can talk to a dermatologist about removing it, although this medical professional may send the patient to a specialist if it appears near the eyes. Patients may also want to discuss the problem with their general practitioner to see about testing for elevated blood lipids, along with ways to control such elevations, if they exist. Diet and exercise have been shown to be very helpful, and some individuals with genetic predispositions can also consider medications.