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Acanthosis Nigricans

Updated on March 28, 2012

Overview

Acanthosis Nigricans is a skin condition in which the skin of the body creases and fold become dark, thick and velvety. It is common in armpits, groin and the neck. Although there is no specific treatment of Acanthosis Nigricans, these skin areas may be lightened to fade these changes.


View Slideshow: Acanthosis Nigricans...
View Slideshow: Acanthosis Nigricans...

Acanthosis Nigricans Photos:

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Acanthosis Nigricans in the back of neckAcanthosis Nigricans in the back of neck.Acanthosis Nigricans in the front of neck.Acanthosis Nigricans in the armpit.Acanthosis Nigricans in the scalp.Acanthosis Nigricans in the finger knuckles.Acanthosis Nigricans in the groin (vagina).The distribution of Acanthosis Nigricans in the body.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the back of neck
Acanthosis Nigricans in the back of neck
Acanthosis Nigricans in the back of neck.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the back of neck. | Source
Acanthosis Nigricans in the front of neck.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the front of neck.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the armpit.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the armpit.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the scalp.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the scalp.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the finger knuckles.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the finger knuckles.
Acanthosis Nigricans in the groin (vagina).
Acanthosis Nigricans in the groin (vagina).
The distribution of Acanthosis Nigricans in the body.
The distribution of Acanthosis Nigricans in the body. | Source

Symptoms

The only sign of Acanthosis Nigricans is the dark skin changes. The skin of body folds and creases become dark, thick and velvety especially, in the armpits, groin and the neck. Also, the skin of the palm of the hand or the sole of the foot may show these changes.

Acanthosis Nigricans is a slowly progressive condition. It takes long time, months or even years, until these changes are visible. In some cases, the skin of these areas may be itching.

Acanthosis Nigricans, in most cases, is just a cosmetic problem.


Causes

In general, Acanthosis Nigricans is associated with the conditions in which there is increased level of insulin, a condition called insulin resistance, as in Diabetes Mellitus Type II or obesity. Insulin is an essential hormone in your body secreted by your pancreas to facilitate the entry of glucose into your body cells. When insulin fails to do its job, your pancreas secretes more insulin aiming to enhance its function. The excess insulin in blood affects the skin cells and triggers the occurrence of these changes in the skin.

Insulin resistance is sometimes inherited, and in other cases, it is caused by drugs such as oral contraceptive drugs or excess Niacin (Vitamin B3). It may be associated with some types of cancer but, it is rare.


How insulin resistance develops?
How insulin resistance develops?

Risk Factors

A risk factor is a character which if it is present in a person, it increases the possibility of the occurrence of Acanthosis Nigricans. People with dark skin of any age are the most liable to suffer from Acanthosis Nigricans.


Diagnosis

Acanthosis Nigricans is diagnosed through detecting the characteristic skin changes during skin examination. Sometimes, skin biopsy is obtained for lab examination.

If the cause of Acanthosis Nigricans is unclear, other investigations may be required such as blood test, X-ray and other test to identify the underlying cause.


Treatment

There is no specific treatment for Acanthosis Nigricans. However; if the underlying cause is treated, this may help the skin changes to fade. Weight loss and treating your state of insulin resistance are the most effective ways to make these dark skin spots fade. If the treatment doesn’t make your skin condition better, your doctor may prescribe any of the following medications to help fade your dark skin:

  1. Modified Vitamin A Products
  2. Oral medications such as Isotretinoin (Sotret, Accutane).
  3. Fish Oil Supplements.
  4. Laser therapy or Dermabrasion which help to decrease the thickness of the skin. They are a cosmetic procedure done by a certified dermatologist.
  5. Anti-bacterial soup or topical anti-biotic, as sometime there is a bad odor originating from the thick lesions.

Treatments for Acanthosis Nigricans:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
#1: Vitamin A products and natural sources: They help renew your skin cells making the dark spots fade over time.#2: Isotretinoin (Sotret, Accutane).#3: Fish Oil Supplements.#4: Laser therapy or Dermabrasion.#5: Anti-bacterial soup.
#1: Vitamin A products and natural sources: They help renew your skin cells making the dark spots fade over time.
#1: Vitamin A products and natural sources: They help renew your skin cells making the dark spots fade over time.
#2: Isotretinoin (Sotret, Accutane).
#2: Isotretinoin (Sotret, Accutane).
#3: Fish Oil Supplements.
#3: Fish Oil Supplements.
#4: Laser therapy or Dermabrasion.
#4: Laser therapy or Dermabrasion.
#5: Anti-bacterial soup.
#5: Anti-bacterial soup.

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    • Dr Rabea profile image
      Author

      Dr Rabea 5 years ago

      @Mardi: Thank you.

    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi 5 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Great hub with lots of information!