Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis Nigricans is a hyper pigmentation of the skin that is brown to black in colour. It is usually found in the folds of the skin, such as the groin, neck, navel, forehead, and the armpits. It is velvety to the touch, and can be either benign or malignant. This fairly common skin disorder can also effect the lips, palms and soles of the feet.  It can be found in both men and woman, and effects only one percent of Caucasians, six percent of Latinos, thirteen percent of African Americans, and thirty four percent of Native Americans. Those that are overweight, have darker skin tones and either have diabetes or are pre-diabetic are often at risk the most. The condition is slow to form and could take months or years to form. Please note that children that develop the disease have a much higher risk at developing type 2 diabetes.

If one suspects they have Acanthosis Nigricans, they should have it examined by a doctor.  It is possible  that Acanthosis Nigricans can be a sign of a more serious health condition such as diabetes, or cancer.

Acanthosis Nigricans is caused when the epidermal skin cells rapidly reproduce, which is commonly triggered by insulin levels in the blood that are too high. However, Acanthosis Nigricans can also be caused by cancers and medications that one might be taking. High doses of niacin, low thyroid levels, adrenal gland disorders and disorders of the pituitary gland can also cause Acanthosis Nigricans.

Usually a doctor or dermatologist will be able to tell just by examining the skin if Acanthosis Nigricans is present.  However, in some cases a skin biopsy could be done. Other tests, such as fasting insulin testing, X-rays, and blood glucose tests may be ran. While the doctor is examining the skin, it is very important for you to state what medications you are taking, as well as any vitamins, minerals, or supplements.  These may have a playing role in why you have developed Acanthosis Nigricans.  During your appointment, your doctor will most likely ask if anyone in your family has diabetes, or if anyone else in your family has ever had this problem. The doctor will also check to see if you have ever had any issues with your thyroid, ovaries, and adrenal glands. He or she may even ask if you have ever had to take high doses of prednisone for more than a week at a time.  Have you ever had cancer will most likely be asked as well as how long the condition has been there and if it has gotten worse or not.

Risk factors for Acanthosis Nigricans include obesity.  The heavier a person is, the higher the chance they have for contracting Acanthosis Nigricans.  Race also plays a role, as this disorder is mostly found in blacks, Native Indians, and Hispanics. Many also say that genetics play a role in Acanthosis Nigricans.

There are many treatments for Acanthosis Nigricans.  If you are overweight, your doctor may suggest that you lose some body weight.  Medication may also be prescribed if the condition is due to the thyroid, ovaries, or adrenal glands.   If Acanthosis Nigricans is triggered by a tumor that is cancerous, surgery could also be an option.

Many are concerned about how the area on the skin looks. Doctors can prescribe a cream to lighten the areas on the skin that are effected.   These can include salicylic acid, Retin-A, a 20 percent urea, and alpha hydroxy acids.   Antibacterial soaps and topical creams can be used to eliminate odor that is sometimes caused by this disorder. Oral acne medications are also used to help clear up Acanthosis Nigricans. Laser therapy may also be recommended to reduce the thickness of the skin.

5 replies
  1. Laura
    Laura says:

    I am almost positive that I have Acanthosis Nigricans. There is a slight odor to a velvety like rash that I have. It does not itch, and I have not seen anywhere in this article that said that it would itch. Can my doctor treat this condition, or would it be best to be referred to a dermatologist right away? I do not want to monkey around with it any longer than I have to.

  2. Diabetes
    Diabetes says:

    The article stated type 2 diabetes. Should someone with type 1 diabetes be concerned about this? My daughter has type 1 and I want to be on the up and up with different disorders that she could contract from diabetes. I do not ever recall reading anything about type 1 and Acanthosis Nicgricans being related.

  3. Laser therapy
    Laser therapy says:

    It stated laser therapy can be used to reduce the skin’s thickness. How is this going to help? Does Acanthosis Nigricans only develop where there is thick skin? By thick, does it mean fatty skin?
    Also, oral acne medications are prescribed for this. Would birth control be an effective measure to treat this as some birth controls are excellent at treating acne? Or does it specifically mean oral acne medication that was made specially for acne?

  4. Miranda's hubbie
    Miranda's hubbie says:

    My husband had Acanthosis Nigricans. One thing that his doctor said for him to do was to lose weight. It was a huge feat to do but in the end it was all worth it. I have seen his condition pretty much clear up! He is excited to have the condition gone and I am happy that he is healthier. Obesity does play a huge part in Acanthosis Nigricans and it is advised to lose whatever weight that you can. It really does work and it is much cheaper than surgery and so much healthier than creams and other treatments that could be used.

  5. Lorry JR.
    Lorry JR. says:

    I would like to know if Acanthosis Nigricans is contagious? If I touch someone with it, will I be infected?
    It also stated that the skin will be velvety. Will it just have that feeling to me as I touch my skin or will others be able to feel the velvet like texture as well?


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