Acanthosis nigricans is a condition that causes the skin to become discolored in the creases and folds of your body. This dark colored skin sometimes becomes thickened and often shows up in the armpits, groin and the folds of the neck.
Adults who are obese or who have diabetes are at the highest risk for acanthosis nigricans, though some children do develop the condition. Children with acanthosis nigricans are also at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
Though the condition can affect anyone, acanthosis nigricans is thought to be genetic and occurs most commonly in Native Americans. High doses of niacin, birth control pills or corticosteroids can also put you at greater risk for acanthosis nigricans. The condition can sometimes be a precursor to cancer of the stomach, liver or other internal organs, although this is rare.
People with acanthosis nigricans experience a discoloration of the skin in their creases and folds, specifically in the armpit, groin or the folds of the neck. Skin gradually becomes darker and thicker and can sometimes itch or have an odor.
Because acanthosis nigricans has been associated with several other serious conditions, you should contact your doctor if you notice changes in your skin. It could be a symptom of another, more serious medical condition. Some of these conditions may include:
If your doctor suspects acanthosis nigricans during your annual skin examination, he or she may remove a small sample of the skin to be examined in the lab to confirm the diagnosis. Various blood tests and x-rays could also be ordered to diagnose any underlying issues.
There is no specific recommended treatment for acanthosis nigricans, but some prescription creams have been effective at lightening and softening affected skin. Your doctor may also recommend using a gentle antibacterial soap or topical antibiotic. In some cases, acne medications and laser therapy have also been shown to reduce the thickness of the affected skin.
Though there is no specific means of preventing acanthosis nigricans, the treatment of a patient’s underlying conditions could eventually restore the skin’s healthy color and texture. Patients who are able to lose weight or stop taking certain medications have seen an improvement in the color of their skin. If the discoloration was triggered by an underlying health issue such as cancer, once the cancer has been removed, the skin may also improve.
*Results may vary by individual