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Juvenile Xanthogranuloma

  • Author: Bhupendra Patel, MD, FRCS; Chief Editor: Hampton Roy, Sr, MD  more...
Updated: May 18, 2016


Juvenile xanthogranuloma (JXG) is primarily a self-limited dermatologic disorder that is associated rarely with systemic manifestations. Infants and small children are mainly affected.

Histiocytic disorders can be divided broadly into two categories: Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) and non-LCH. JXG is a benign cutaneous disorder and is the most common form of non-LCH.

JXG consists of lesions that may be single or multiple and appear as firm, slightly raised papulonodules several millimeters in diameter. They are tan-orange in color and occur frequently on the head and neck, but many extracutaneous sites have been reported.

The eye, particularly the uveal tract, is the most frequent site of extracutaneous involvement. Approximately one half of patients with ocular involvement have skin lesions. JXG is the most frequent cause of spontaneous hyphema in children and can result in secondary glaucoma and eventual blindness.

In 1948, Fry first described iris involvement in association with juvenile xanthogranuloma (JXG) at a meeting of the Ophthalmic Pathology Club in Washington, DC (the case was later published by Blank et al a year later). Subsequently, major contributions were by Sanders in 1960 (a multicenter series of 20 cases of iris JXG) and Zimmerman in 1965 (53 cases of ocular JXG). Zimmerman demonstrated that the iris and eyelid were the two most common ocular sites involved.



The etiology of JXG is unknown. JXG is believed to result from a disordered macrophage response to a nonspecific tissue injury, resulting in a granulomatous reaction. JXG is on a spectrum of histiocytic disorders that includes benign cephalic histiocytosis, generalized eruptive histiocytosis, adult xanthogranuloma, and progressive nodular histiocytosis. These diseases are less common than the related Langerhans cell histiocytoses.[1]




United States

The frequency is unknown, but it may be higher than reported, since lesions occur early in life, may be misdiagnosed, and spontaneously regress. In those affected, 92% of ocular involvement occurs before age 2 years.[2]


Cutaneous lesions generally are self-limited and rarely require treatment. The risk of morbidity is high with ocular involvement and can include hyphema, glaucoma, corneal blood staining, cataract, vascular occlusion, and retinal detachment, all of which can lead to amblyopia in childhood. Rarely, death has been reported among children with visceral JXG.


No reported predilection of race exists in JXG, although few African American patients have been described.


Cutaneous JXG is reported 1.5 times more in male children, but no sex predilection exists in adults. Both sexes are equally at risk for ocular involvement.


JXG may be present at birth (in about 10%) but most often arises in infancy. Children younger than 6 months are more likely to have multiple lesions.[2] Zimmerman reported 64% of cutaneous lesions to be present by age 7 months and 85% before 1 year. Adult onset is reported infrequently.[3]

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Bhupendra Patel, MD, FRCS Professor of Ophthalmic Plastic and Facial Cosmetic Surgery, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, John A Moran Eye Center, University of Utah School of Medicine

Bhupendra Patel, MD, FRCS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal Society of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Simon K Law, MD, PharmD Clinical Professor of Health Sciences, Department of Ophthalmology, Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Simon K Law, MD, PharmD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, American Glaucoma Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

J James Rowsey, MD Former Director of Corneal Services, St Luke's Cataract and Laser Institute

J James Rowsey, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Medical Association, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Florida Medical Association, Sigma Xi, Southern Medical Association, Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Hampton Roy, Sr, MD Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Hampton Roy, Sr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American College of Surgeons, Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Gerhard W Cibis, MD Clinical Professor, Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology Service, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Kansas School of Medicine

Gerhard W Cibis, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, American Ophthalmological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Theodore Curtis, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Colorado; Consulting Staff, Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute

Theodore Curtis, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

David T Wheeler, MD Associate Professor, Departments of Ophthalmology and Pediatrics, Oregon Health & Science University

David T Wheeler, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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