Eruptive xanthomatosis (EX) causes small harmless bumps, also known as eruptive xanthomas, on the skin. These bumps are sometimes referred to as lesions, papules, plaques, or a rash.

This rare skin condition happens when you have too much fat or cholesterol in your blood. The bumps are filled with fat. About 10 percent of people with high fat levels in their blood will get EX.

High cholesterol may be caused by some health conditions. In turn, high cholesterol can trigger several serious diseases. Treating EX means getting rid of the excess fat in your body and treating the cause.

EX causes groups of round little bumps. They’re usually found on the back of your arms — such as around your elbows — and on the back of your thighs, buttocks, and legs. They can also show up around your eyes and on your:

  • stomach
  • neck
  • back
  • knees
  • face
  • scalp

The bumps look like a cluster of small, hard, raised spots. They’re usually about 1 to 4 millimeters across, sometimes resembling chickenpox or measles. The bumps may also grow bigger.

EX bumps range in color. They may be skin-toned, pink, red, brown, yellow, or a mixture of colors. The fat inside the bumps can give them a yellowish color. They might also look shiny or waxy or have a yellow or red crust around them.

EX bumps may not cause any symptoms at all. Some people may have:

  • itching
  • tenderness
  • pain
  • redness
  • oozing

EX is a sign that you have too many fats or lipids in your blood. The extra fats leak out of your blood and collect in your skin.

High fats in your body might be genetic. Being overweight or obese can also cause excess fats in your body and blood.

Several conditions and infections can also lead to more fat in your body. These include:

Some medications can make your body store more fat, leading to EX. These include:

  • cyclosporine
  • estrogens
  • steroids
  • protease inhibitors
  • isotretinoin
  • sodium valproate
  • sertraline
  • thiazide diuretics
  • tacrolimus

Not everyone with EX has diabetes. However, people with diabetes have a greater risk of high fat content in their blood. In some cases, EX may be the first sign that someone has diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, EX is most common in young men with type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes raises blood sugar levels and stops your body from making or using insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that turns blood sugar into energy. It also helps your body burn fats instead of storing them. This is why people with diabetes or insulin problems are more likely to have high fat content.

EX bumps usually go away in a few weeks to months. Medical treatment and lifestyle changes can address the underlying cause resulting in high fat levels.

Medical treatments

If your EX is caused by diabetes, your doctor will help you balance blood sugar levels. This will help to lower high fats in the blood. Treatment for diabetes includes taking daily medications such as:

  • insulin
  • metformin (Glucophage)
  • glipizide (Glucotrol)
  • pramlintide (SymlinPen)

Genetics can also cause your body to naturally make and store more fats. If this is the case, your doctor may treat you with medications to help bring down dangerous cholesterol levels. These may include:

  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • lovastatin (Altoprev, Mevacor)
  • rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  • simvastatin (Zocor)

Lifestyle changes

You should also make healthy and consistent lifestyle changes to help get rid of the extra fat, including:

  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • eating a balanced diet
  • getting plenty of exercise
  • quitting smoking
  • drinking less alcohol

Nutrition

Along with prescribed medications, food changes and a balanced diet can help you control blood sugar levels and bring down bad fats.

Reduce or cut out sugary foods and simple carbohydrates, such as:

  • added sugars
  • corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup
  • white bread
  • white rice
  • white flour
  • potato chips

Add plenty of fiber to your daily diet, including:

  • fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables
  • whole grain breads and pasta
  • brown rice
  • oats
  • barley
  • lentils
  • quinoa

Avoid trans fats, such as:

  • margarine
  • fried foods
  • packaged cookies and crackers
  • packaged snacks
  • frozen pizzas and dinners
  • frozen fries
  • bottled salad dressings, sauces, and marinades
  • nondairy coffee creamers

Treatment for symptoms

To relieve itching, pain, and other symptoms of EX, your doctor may prescribe:

  • pain relievers
  • numbing creams
  • steroid creams or medications

In rare cases, EX bumps can grow large and become uncomfortable. Your doctor may recommend laser treatment or surgery to remove them.

EX is a harmless skin condition. It usually goes away in a few weeks with treatment. In very rare cases, EX can be caused by genetics. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be overweight or obese to have high blood fats or get this skin condition. However, it can be a sign that your body isn’t working properly.

EX might be an early warning sign for heart disease due to high cholesterol levels. The bumps may also be caused by a chronic disease, such as diabetes. They also may be a sign of a pancreas condition such as pancreatitis.

Your doctor can work with you to treat and stop serious health problems from happening. Your treatment may involve medication and sticking to a healthy lifestyle.

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the best diet and exercise plan for you. You’ll want to see your doctor to check on your health regularly even after symptoms of EX have subsided.