Causes and Treatment for Those Ugly Brown Patches Called Acanthosis Nigricans
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Causes and Treatment for Those Ugly Brown Patches Called Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition that leaves dark, thick and velvety textured legions on the skin

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition where you will see dark, velvety and thick patches usually in the folds of the skin, such as the neck, groin, abdomen, armpits and so on. This condition is more esthetic than anything else. It is not harmful, but does not look very attractive.


The only symptom is the gradual change in skin colour. The dark velvety thick patches appear gradually and sometimes they will occur on the lips, the soles of the feet, or the palms as well. The process of change could take months or years.

In some cases there can be itching but that is very rare.

You would need to consult your doctor if you experience acanthosis nigricans because this condition is often indicative of an underlying condition such as diabetes.


This skin condition is most often associated with insulin levels, and therefore type 2 diabetes and obesity can bring on acanthosis nigricans.

  • It can also be inherited.
  • Certain medications such as the birth control pill or large dosages of niacin can bring on the condition.
  • Hormonal issues
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Tumors – it is rare that the tumors will be cancerous
  • Acanthosis nigricans is most common among people with dark skin and can begin at any time.

The doctors appointment

You may see your own doctor who will most likely refer you to an endocrinologist.

You are going to have to ask the doctor or secretary if there are any restrictions or preparations you need to do before the visit such as restrict your diet.

Jot down any symptoms even if they appear to be unrelated.

Make sure you have a list of all medical conditions you have past or present, the medications you are on including dosages, vitamins, over the counter drugs, and birth control.

Include medical conditions that run in the family, and any life stressors such as losing your job, a death in the family, moving from house to house and so on.

Bring someone all with you, that person may add sometime you forgot, or will remember something the doctor said that you could forget.

Joint down what you would like to ask the doctor. We often leave the doctor's office only to say, “I forgot to ask about...” 

The types of questions you might ask are:

  • What is causing the acanthosis nigricans?
  • Could my symptoms be related to something else?
  • How long will I have this condition?
  • Do I have to go for tests?
  • What is the treatment plan?
  • Is there an alternative plan available?
  • How can I manage all the different medical conditions I have?
  • What are my lifestyle restrictions?
  • Is there a genetic form of this medication?
  • Is there any literature I can read and where can I find it?
  • Furthermore, do not be afraid to ask a question during the consultation. It is important that you fully understand what your doctor is saying to you.

Your doctor will have questions of his own. He will most likely ask you:

When did you first noticed your skin changing, and if you have any symptoms like itchiness and so on. The doctor may ask you if there is a family history of acanthosis nigricans and finally, is there any treatment you have been using to get rid of the condition and did it work?


The most common way to detect acanthosis nigricans is by a physical exam. Sometimes a skin biopsy is performed to analysis the skin cells, but that is rare.

Your doctor may also order other tests such as blood tests and X-rays to determine what is the underlying cause for this condition.


  • There isn't a specific treatment for acanthosis nigricans; however, you may consider losing weight, and eating less sugar and starch.
  • The doctor may prescribe some creams containing vitamin A, or Retin-A to lighten the dark areas.
  • Accutane, Sotret and other oral medications are sometimes prescribed.
  • Fish oils are often recommended

Unfortunately, thick legions can give off a bad odor, so that using an antibacterial soap is recommend. Also some people will opt for laser surgery or dermabrasion to reduce the thickness of the area.


Additional resources:

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Comments (9)

Very informative article, this is something that can happen to anyone especially after a certain stage in life...thanks a lot carol :)

Didn't know this could be related to diabetes. I'm seeing my dermatologist next month.

Most interesting and full of info. Thanks.

Thanks for sharing. : )

thanks Bethany

Very interesting

Great article full of info. Thanks.

thanks everyone for commenting

Very complete and well presented information.Thank you.