Carotenemia (xanthoderma) is a  clinical condition characterized by yellow pigmentation of the skin.It is accompanied by increased beta-carotene levels in the blood. In many of the cases, the condition is followed prolonged and excessive consumption of carotene-rich foods, such as carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes.

It is a harmless condition and not life-threatening but can be wrongly diagnosed as jaundice in most of the cases.

Let’s read more about it in the article.


A medical condition where there is the presence of excess carotenoids in your bloodstream causing an orange-yellow appearance of the skin resembling jaundice. It is a harmless condition.

This condition is easily appreciated in light-complexioned people and maybe present chiefly as yellowing of palms and sole in darkly pigmented people. In 1904 by von Noorden who observed it be prominent in the nasolabial folds and on the palms and soles, named Carotenemia as xanthosis diabetic originally.

It can happen in people of any age but is more common in children


Carotenoids are the yellow colored lipid-soluble compounds that are found in orange, green, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables. They are fat-soluble pigments.

It is a lipochrome that usually adds yellow color to the skin. Carotene is made up of different substances, and the most common form found in the body is beta-carotene which is essential for the production of vitamin A in the body. Also, carotene plays a vital part in the human body:

  • It is beneficial for the skin,
  • Useful for the eyes and,
  • Essential in pregnant women for fetus development


  1. The sclera (the white part of the eye) is not yellow when a person has carotenemia.
  2. Also, it does not affect your mucous membranes which include your nostrils, mouth, and eyes.
  3. it is a skin condition while Jaundice is a symptom of a failing liver or gallbladder.
  4. This can be controlled by dietary changes; jaundice cannot be controlled by diet alone.


The two types of causes are:

  1. Primary: This type of Carotenemia occurs due to consumption of carotene-rich food like carrots in excess. Yellow pigmentation of the skin takes place.
  2. Secondary: There are certain medical conditions which contribute to the development of Carotenemia. This is because the carotene is not metabolized by the body the way it should which results in accumulation of carotene in the body. Skin discoloration due to these factors is termed as Secondary Carotenemia, as it is not due to excessive carotene intake but under certain conditions resulting in the inappropriate metabolism of carotene leading to carotene retention.

Some of the conditions that can cause secondary Carotenemia are:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Hypothyroidism
  1. Carotenemia due to hypothyroidism

Thyroxine can increase the conversion of beta-carotene (provitamin A) to 2 molecules of vitamin A (retinol), or it can be more in hyperthyroidism.

The characteristic yellow tint of the skin in hypothyroidism is due to hyper-beta-carotenemia i.e., in hypothyroidism, there is less conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A, which becomes the reason of this condition.

  1. Kidney dysfunction

It is of note that kidney dysfunction, in general, is associated with carotenemia as a result of decreased excretion of carotenoids.

  1. Liver dysfunction

Liver dysfunction, regardless of origin, causes carotenemia as a result of the impaired conversion of carotenoids to retinol.

  1. Nephrotic syndrome

In the nephrotic syndrome, the carotenemia is related to the associated increased serum lipids.


The major  symptoms are as follows:

  • Yellow skin
  • Orange skin
  • Yellowish-orange coloration of the palms, soles of foot and nasolabial folds
  • NO yellow coloration of eyes like in jaundice


A visual inspection of the skin discoloration is a virtual giveaway when it comes to diagnosing this condition. The physician will also examine the sclera (white portion of the eye) to see whether it is yellow as that may be a case of jaundice.

If the sclerae are white and the skin color is yellow especially on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, then a diagnosis is confirmed of Carotenemia. To further confirm the diagnosis, the following tests may be conducted:

i. Blood tests to check the beta-carotene levels in the body which will be high in cases of Carotenemia.

ii. Skin biopsy to look for some other source for skin discoloration.

iii. Liver function test to check whether there are any chances of liver dysfunction which is not the case with Carotenemia.


This will NOT present with the following symptoms:

  • Dry and peeling skin or other skin rashes,
  • Itchiness, burning or tenderness of the skin,
  • Yellow discoloration of the sclera (white area of the eyes) and inner lining of the mouth,
  • Enlarged liver and spleen,
  • Green discoloration of the skin or hair (seen with contact with copper),
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.


It doesn’t have any specific cure.If you have this medical condition then you should avoid the below-mentioned food as these are high in carotene.It is a harmless medical condition so you dont have to worry about it.


1. Carrots

Carrots are food to avoid in the case of carotenemia. The orange color of the vegetable is made from beta-carotene, a nutrient that is transformed into vitamin A in the human body. Vitamin A helps make standard skin color, but too much can give skin a yellow hue.

2. Sweet potatoes

The yellow or orange color of sweet potatoes can also contribute to this condition. Carrots and Sweet potatoes tend to be among the first vegetables fed to babies, which may lead to a yellow tinge to the skin.

3. Squash

Winter squash that is orange or yellow may cause this condition. If blood levels of carotene indicate levels are already too high, then squash should be restricted.

4. Green Beans

Green beans can lead to this medical condition if eaten in large quantities as they contain carotene. The green color of the vegetables may confuse people, but the darker shade of the vegetable just hides the carotene within.

5. Shellfish

Shellfish is another beta-carotene rich food to be avoided during carotenemia.

6. Corn

Corn is not the most important food to avoid in tconditiontion, but it is an orange color food, which has a useful contribution towards developing this condition. So, it is recommended to avoid this food for faster relief.

7. Shrimp and Salmon

Seafood rich in beta-carotene should be avoided, these foods may pose a problem by adding more orange color to your existing carotenemia condition. Farm raised salmons to contain more beta-carotene as they are fed with excess beta-carotene to get a broad orange color, than wild salmon as they. Thus, avoiding farm-raised salmon is highly recommended.

8. Orange colored fruits

Like orange vegetables and orange seafood, orange fruits should also be avoided in case of carotenemia. Cantaloupe and oranges, it is easy to remember and avoid these foods, as they have an orange color.

Carotenemia Pictures

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Carotenemia Pictures 1
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Carotenemia Pictures 3

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