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Acanthosis Nigricans


Acanthosis Nigricans (AN) is localized thickening of the skin that often presents dark brown discoloration commonly in skin folds such as the neck or underarms, although other body parts may also be affected. The condition is usually harmless, but may sometimes be associated other conditions.


Understanding Acanthosis Nigricans


Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition that causes dark, velvety areas to develop on the body due to thickening of the skin. The darkening typically happens slowly and is not harmful, but it can be a warning sign of conditions such as:


  • Weight Gain: Weight gain is often the most common association with acanthosis nigricans

  • Pre-diabetes or diabetes: Endocrine disorders such as diabetes have been associated with acanthosis nigricans

  • Medication reaction: Certain medications may cause darkening of skin

  • Hormonal conditions: Thyroid problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Addison’s disease and other hormonal conditions have been linked to acanthosis nigricans

  • Cancer: In rare cases, acanthosis nigricans can be a warning sign for internal cancer


Signs & Symptoms of Acanthosis Nigricans


Patches of thickened and darken skin associated with acanthosis nigricans occurs on various areas of the body including:


  • Neck

  • Armpits

  • Groin

  • Knees

  • Elbows

  • Under the breasts


The affected skin may be thicker and itchy and may even produce a foul odor. Less commonly acanthosis nigricans can even develop on the palms, soles of the feet, lips, mouth and eyelids.


Most times, the condition develops over a period of months or years. Sudden symptoms are indicative of a more serious health issue and should be evaluated by your doctor.


Management/Treatment of Acanthosis Nigricans


Acanthosis nigricans is a self-limited condition which may improve when the underlying condition is addressed. Often times, weight loss or management of any underlying diabetes may help improve the appearance of AN. Although topical exfoliating agents may be used to thin down or exfoliate thickened skin, these options may cause inflammation and irritation of the skin if used in body folds.

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