Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition characterized by the presence of dark, velvety patches on the skin, typically found on the neck, armpits, groin, and other skin folds. The patches may also appear on the hands, elbows, knees, or face. The affected skin is often thick, rough, and itchy. This condition affects both men and women of any age, although it is more prevalent in those who are overweight, have insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
The main cause of acanthosis nigricans is an increase in insulin levels. High insulin levels can stimulate skin cell growth and trigger melanin production. Obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome, or certain medications can contribute to the increase in insulin levels that cause acanthosis nigricans.
The symptoms of acanthosis nigricans include the presence of dark, thick, velvety patches of skin on the neck, armpits, groin, and other skin folds. The skin may feel rough and itchy, and in some cases, may emit a foul odor.
There are different types of acanthosis nigricans, including type 1, which occurs in people with insulin resistance, usually due to obesity or type 2 diabetes, type 2, which occurs in people who do not have insulin resistance or diabetes but have a genetic predisposition to the condition, and drug-induced, which occurs as a side effect of certain medications.
While there is no specific cure for acanthosis nigricans, treatment options are available. Treating the underlying cause, such as losing weight and improving blood sugar control for people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, can help improve the condition. Medications or topical treatments may be prescribed to help reduce the appearance of the patches. Dermabrasion, laser therapy, and chemical peels are also used to improve the appearance of affected skin.
Preventing the development of acanthosis nigricans includes maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. Managing any underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or hormonal disorders, can also help prevent the condition. If you notice any changes in your skin, especially in the skin folds, consult with Dr. Neily at Coast Dermatology for an early diagnosis and treatment to prevent the condition from getting worse.