What are Juvenile Xanthogranulomas?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2018
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Juvenile xanthogranulomas are nodules which can form on the skin and viscera. As a general rule, these formations are entirely benign, and they usually resolve themselves within a few years, disappearing naturally. In some cases, juvenile xanthogranulomas are associated with more serious medical conditions, and sometimes they can be confused with less benign skin nodules and lesions, so it is a good idea to seek treatment for juvenile xanthogranulomas to ensure that they are properly diagnosed.

As the term “juvenile” would suggest, the vast majority of juvenile xanthogranulomas appear in children, typically before two years of age. This condition is most common in male Caucasian infants, although it can manifest in females and people of other races. Around 10% of juvenile xanthogranulomas manifest in adults. These nodules are caused by an excess of immune system cells called histiocytes, tissue macrophages which help keep the body in good health.

You may also see juvenile xanthogranulomas referred to as “non-Langerhans cell histiocytosis,” distinguishing it from a far more serious condition caused by histiocytes known as Langerhans cells. Langerhans cells are typically located in the skin and lymph nodes, but they can migrate to other parts of the body, causing health problems.


A typical juvenile xanthogranuloma is smooth and roughly round in shape. The nodule may be yellow, reddish, or brown in color, and such nodules are most common around the neck and face. Smaller xanthogranulomas can appear more like papules, while larger ones can resemble discs. The nodule may also give way slightly when touched, because it is often filled with fat cells.

Because several skin conditions can cause similar-looking nodules, most doctors prefer to biopsy suspected xanthogranulomas to ensure that they are, in fact, benign. Sometimes the doctor will go ahead and remove the nodule during the biopsy, so that it if it is not benign, treatment can begin immediately. In other instances, a small chunk will be removed and tested.

Treatment for juvenile xanthogranulomas is not required, unless the patient finds the nodule irritating or embarrassing. Steroids can be used to shrink the nodule, and it is also possible to use lasers or other surgical tools to remove the papules. It can also be a good idea to keep an eye on the site for skin changes.



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