Facts About Acanthosis Nigricans
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Facts About Acanthosis Nigricans

Pronounced "ak-an-THOE-sis NIE-grih-kuns," Acanthosis nigricans is a condition of the skin defined by dark, thick, plush-like skin mostly affecting the armpits, groin and neck areas; however, it can be found in any and all folds and creases in the skin.

What Is Acanthosis Nigricans?

Pronounced "ak-an-THOE-sis NIE-grih-kuns," Acanthosis nigricans is a condition of the skin defined by dark, thick, plush-like skin mostly affecting the armpits, groin and neck areas; however, it can be found in any and all folds and creases in the skin.

People who have Acanthosis nigricans are usually concerned with the appearance of their skin. Although, there's no specific treatment for the condition, itself, often times just by treating the underlying causes of Acanthosis nigricans, such as obesity or diabetes, you can lighten the appearance of the affected skin. Generally, Acanthosis nigricans will fade over time once the underlying conditions have been taken care of.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Acanthosis Nigricans?

  • Skin changes. Acanthosis nigricans is not a painful condition or reason for (health) concern, other than vanity. Some people are embarrassed by the appearance of the thick, dark, often times plush-like patches of skin in the folds and creases of their skin. Normally, the armpits, groin and neck areas are affected, but sometimes Acanthosis nigricans can affect other parts of the body such as the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet.
  • Slow progression. Acanthosis nigricans doesn't happen over night. It can take several month, or even years for the skin to change its appearance, gradually.
  • Possible itching. On rare occasions, the affected areas may itch. But, they are never painful, and they do not blister.

When to See a Doctor for Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans takes a long time to fully be noticeable; however, go see your doctor right away if these changes in your skin come on quickly and/or suddenly, as it may be the result of a more serious underlying condition.

What Causes Acanthosis Nigricans?

Type 2 diabetes or being significantly overweight may be the cause of Acanthosis nigricans, as both conditions increase your insulin levels, and may trigger Acanthosis nigricans. The extra insulin in your body, over time, may bring on Acanthosis nigricans and its characteristic skin changes.

Acanthosis nigricans may also be genetic. Also, medications such as niacin in large doses or oral contraceptives can trigger Acanthosis nigricans. Tumors, endocrine disorders and other hormonal imbalances/changes may also cause the onset of Acanthosis nigricans. In rare instances, Acanthosis nigricans may be related to certain types of cancer.

Treatments and Drugs for Acanthosis Nigricans

Although there's no treatment specific to Acanthosis nigricans, often times just treating its underlying conditions can reduce the appearance of the dark, thick, plush-like patches of skin. In time, and with tight control, the affected areas may fade significantly. To help healing of Acanthosis nigricans along, try the following:

  • Losing extra weight, if you're overweight or obese
  • Changing your diet, by cutting back on, or eliminating starchy and/or sugary foods

Ask your doctor to prescribe the following if you are concerned about the physical appearance of your skin:

  • Retin-A and/or other creams and ointments
  • Accutane, Sotret and/or other oral medications
  • Fish oil
  • Dermabrasion or laser therapy

It is advisable to use antibacterial soaps or a topical antibiotic if the thick lesions associated with Acanthosis nigricans have a bad or foul-smelling odor.

Disclaimer: This article is for consumer educational purposes only. Nothing contained in this article is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This article does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Comments (2)

Voted up. Very interesting


Never painful? Has the author of this ever experienced having AN firsthand? When mine flares up (during the summer, because of the heat and sweating) my neck is absolutely on fire and very tender. It is quite painful and putting cream/or any other products on it make it hurt much more... So to say it is /never/ painful is quite ignorant.