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What are Xanthelasmas?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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Xanthelasmas, a common type of xanthoma, are yellowish, flat plaques that develop beneath the lower and upper portions of the skin of the eyelids. A xanthoma is a condition in which fat deposits under any skin surface of the body, including the elbows, hands, buttocks, and feet. The presence of xanthomas and xanthelasmas are frequently an indication of high amount of cholesterol or fatty substances in the bloodstream. Most xanthelasmas are painless, but they can cause embarrassment to affected individuals because they are often noticed.

Other causes associated with xanthelasmas formation include low density lipoproteins (LDLs) deficiency and familial mixed hyperlipidaemia. An LDL is a type of cholesterol often called the bad cholesterol. Familial mixed hyperlipidaemia is an inherited disease where there is an increase in the cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels of an affected individual.

Several studies have shown that women are more susceptible to xanthelasmas than men. Once they appear, they may either retain their original size or they can grow slowly. Most xanthelasmas located around the eye area do not usually impair eye or eyelid functions. There is just a very minimal chance that this condition can result in ptosis, which is the drooping or abnormal lowering of the eyelid.

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If left untreated, xanthelasmas do not usually pose any complications. The problem often lies in the high level of cholesterol in the blood, which, when not addressed, can lead to several health conditions, such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and other heart diseases. Atherosclerosis is the narrowing and hardening of the arteries due to the deposition of cholesterol.

Dermatologists, doctors who treat skin disorders, frequently request blood lipid tests for patients presenting with xanthelasmas. As blood cholesterol levels of patients are often high, many doctors often recommend lifestyle changes. These changes include reduction in the intake of fatty foods, and shedding of excess body weight. They may also give medications to lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood.

There are several treatment options that can be done to remove them, such as chemocautery, surgical excision, and cryotherapy. Chemocautery is the application of a chemical substance to affect removal of the plaque. Surgical excision is the removal of the tissue using a sharp instrument. Cryotherapy is the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze the plaques, which will eventually destroy the fatty tissues. Some of these treatment procedures may cause scarring and color changes in the skin.

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