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Eruptive xanthomatosis

Definition

Eruptive xanthomatosis is a skin condition that causes small yellow-red bumps to appear on the body. It can occur in people who have very high blood fats (lipids). These patients also frequently have diabetes.

Alternative Names

Eruptive xanthoma; Eruptive xanthomata; Xanthoma - eruptive; Diabetes - xanthoma

Causes

Eruptive xanthomatosis is a rare skin condition caused by excessively high lipids in the blood. It can occur in people with poorly-controlled diabetes who have very high triglycerides and high cholesterol.

Cholesterol and triglycerides are types of fats that naturally occur in your blood. High levels increase the risk for heart disease and other health problems.

When diabetes is not well-controlled, there is less insulin in the body. Low insulin levels makes it harder for the body to break down fats in the blood. This increases the level of fats in the blood. The extra fat can collect under the skin to form small bumps (lesions).

Symptoms

The skin bumps may vary in color from yellow, orange-yellow, red-yellow, to red. A small red halo may form around the bump. The bumps are:

  • Pea-sized
  • Waxy
  • Firm

While harmless, the bumps may be itchy and tender. They tend to appear on the:

  • Buttocks
  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Thighs
  • Legs

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will take your medical history and examine your skin. You may have the following blood tests:

A skin biopsy may be done to help diagnose the condition.

Treatment

Treatment for eruptive xanthomatosis involves lowering:

  • Blood fats
  • Blood sugar

Your health care provider will ask you to make changes in your lifestyle and diet. This can help lower high blood fats.

If you have diabetes, your provider will ask you to manage your blood sugar [pid=60&gid=000086] through diet, exercise, and medicines.

If lifestyle changes do not work, your provider may ask you to take medicines to help lower blood fat levels, such as:

  • Statins
  • Fibrates
  • Lipid-lowering antioxidants
  • Niacin
  • Bile acid resins

The skin bumps go away by themselves after few weeks. They clear once the blood sugar and fat levels are under control.

Possible Complications

If not treated, high triglyceride levels can lead to pancreatitis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you:

  • Have poor control of diabetes
  • Notice yellowish-red bumps on your skin

Prevention

Control of blood fats and blood sugar can help prevent this condition. Follow your provider's treatment recommendations.

References

Ahn CS, Yosipovitch G, Huang WW. Diabetes and the skin. In: Callen JP, Jorizzo JL, Zone JJ, Piette WW, Rosenbach MA, Vleugels RA, eds. Dermatological Signs of Systemic Disease. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 24.

Braunstein I. Cutaneous manifestations of lipid disorders. In: Callen JP, Jorizzo JL, Zone JJ, Piette WW, Rosenbach MA, Vleugels RA, eds. Dermatological Signs of Systemic Disease. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 26.

Fitzpatrick JE, High WA, Kyle WL. Yellow lesions. In: Fitzpatrick JE, High WA, Kyle WL, eds. Urgent Care Dermatology: Symptom-Based Diagnosis. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 33.

Patterson JW. Cutaneous infiltrates – nonlymphoid. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 40.

White LE, Horenstein MG, Shea CR. Xanthomas. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson IH, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 256.


Review Date: 11/30/2018
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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