What Is Xanthelasma?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on February 13, 2024
2 min read

If you notice yellow patches on the inside corners of your eyelids, you might have this. The patches are made up of cholesterol that's under your skin. They aren't harmful, but if you don’t like the way they look, your eye doctor can help you get rid of them.

Even though it won't hurt you, xanthelasma could be a sign that you're more likely to get heart disease. So don't ignore this skin condition, and get it checked out by your doctor.

The condition is rare, but you can sometimes get it if there are high levels of cholesterol or other fats in your blood. It's also possible to get it even if your cholesterol levels are normal.

Most people who get it are middle-aged or older. It's more common in women than in men. If you have it, you should have your cholesterol checked with a blood test. 

About half the people with xanthelasma have high cholesterol. You're more likely to get these growths if you have:

It’s most common among people whose families are from Asia or the Mediterranean.

The patches probably won't go away on their own. They’ll either stay the same size or grow over time.

If you're worried about how they look, you can have them removed. Your doctor can do that with one of these methods:

  • Dissolve the growth with medicine
  • Freeze it off with intense cold (they’ll call this cryosurgery)
  • Remove it with a laser
  • Take it off with surgery
  • Treat it with an electric needle (you might hear this called electrodesiccation)

These treatments work well, but there can be side effects like:

  • Scars
  • Changes in skin color
  • Turned-out eyelid

The growths may come back, especially if you have inherited high cholesterol.

Xanthelasma may be an early warning sign that cholesterol has started to build up in your blood vessels.

Over time, it can form hard, sticky gunk called plaque in your arteries. This buildup is called atherosclerosis, and it can lead to heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

The growths may also be linked to other heart disease risks, like:

If you notice growths on your eyelids and want them removed, see a dermatologist or an oculoplastics surgeon. That's an eye doctor who has also specialized in doing plastic surgery on the eye. Also get your primary care doctor to check your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other heart risks.