There are so many kinds of common skin issues, it can be hard to know what you’re dealing with when a new bump, lump, growth, or rash suddenly appears. Is it noncancerous or something more serious? Where did it come from? Will it go away on its own, or do you need to call your doctor?
One skin issue you might notice as you age is a xanthoma, or a cholesterol (or lipid) deposit. These fatty growths can crop up anywhere on your skin, from your hands and feet to your shoulders, back, and face. Even your eyes are susceptible to a particular type of cholesterol deposit known as a xanthelasma.
While these growths are noncancerous, they are
Some people might think that xanthomas look unpleasant, depending on the sizes, growth patterns, and locations, which may lead them to wonder if they can manage xanthomas at home. Here’s what you need to know about getting rid of xanthomas.
Like many other skin issues, it’s a good idea to leave removing or popping cholesterol deposits to the professionals. Even if the deposits aren’t in sensitive locations, like around your eyes, trying to remove them at home can result in several complications.
First, it can be painful to try to lance or pop these deposits without any numbing agents. If you’re not a medical professional, you can cause unnecessary bleeding and inflammation. You’re also more likely to introduce bacteria to the open wound in any unsterile environment, leading to infection and increasing your risk of scarring later.
Since there are different ways your dermatologist can remove or treat xanthomas for you, experts recommend that you do not take on the risk of trying to pop them on your own at home.
Healthcare professionals can remove cholesterol deposits with surgery, cryotherapy, chemical peel treatment, or laser therapy.
- Surgery. In a sterile environment, dermatologists can remove xanthomas from the skin with a few different surgical approaches, including excising, scraping, or burning. In some cases, a healthcare professional may numb your skin before surgery to reduce pain, and you may need to care for the wound in a specific way at home under your doctor’s supervision.
- Cryotherapy. This type of procedure involves freezing small parts of the skin by spraying them with liquid nitrogen, which destroys the concerning skin tissue.
- Chemical peel treatments. Healthcare professionals can apply trichloroacetic acid to xanthomas, especially xanthelasmas, to chemically remove damaged tissue and deposits from the skin. Experts consider chemical peels to be
fairly effective and safe treatments.
- Laser therapy. Laser treatments work by heating up small areas of the skin enough to stimulate collagen production and prompt cell turnover. Some laser treatments only need to be done once to be effective, and some only
carry a minor risk of scarring.
However, in addition to singular treatments your healthcare professional performs, it may also be important to manage any underlying health conditions causing the cholesterol deposits.
If your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglyceride levels are high, for example, working with your doctor to lower your LDL can reduce the amount of lipids in your bloodstream and cause fewer xanthomas to form. Diet, exercise, and certain medications can also be potential treatment options for some people with cholesterol deposits.
In most cases, insurance companies consider removal or treatment of cholesterol deposits cosmetic — that means most insurance companies and Medicare won’t cover them, at least not at full cost.
There is a wide spectrum of cosmetic procedures that depends on the size, number, location, and type of xanthoma you want to remove, as well as the exact type of procedure you need.
Surgery or laser treatment for multiple xanthomas may likely to cost several thousand dollars, but the removal of one single xanthoma might be much lower.
Likewise, you may be able to treat one or two small deposits with cryotherapy or a chemical peel quickly at your dermatologist’s office for a reasonable out-of-pocket cost, but more widespread deposits will increase the expense.
There are exceptions. For example, if you have a xanthelasma, that affects your eyesight or vision, you may be able to receive some coverage through your insurance for a medical, not cosmetic, removal.
Treating the root cause of your cholesterol deposits is an important part of your treatment plan, but what does that look like?
In general, managing your cholesterol levels involves a combination of statin (lipid reducing) medication and lifestyle changes. Although not everyone needs statin medication for their cholesterol, nearly everyone will benefit in some way from modifying some of their daily habits, such as:
- eating a balanced diet full of nutrient-rich, whole foods
- exercising regularly, preferably for at least 30 minutes each day
- taking supplements, like fish oil, that help reduce cholesterol
- reducing or quitting smoking
- reducing alcohol use
- maintaining a moderate weight
There are many reasons to contact a healthcare professional if you think you have cholesterol deposits, or xanthomas, on your skin. This often means your cholesterol levels are off-balance, which may warrant monitoring or medical treatment.
But experts recommend that you do not pop or remove these deposits at home. That’s a job for your dermatologist. If you want to remove your cholesterol deposits, know that your insurance may not cover the costs — but there are several options available, some of which might fit into your out-of-pocket budget.