A skin condition that is not a disease but a symptom of other things going wrong in your body is acanthosis nigricans. This is a very common skin condition that affects nearly 3 million US people per year. It is when your skin becomes darker with a thick velvety texture to it. In some cases this discolored skin can smell or be itchy.
The most common areas acanthosis nigricans affect are the armpits, groin, or neck. But it can affect elbows, knees, knuckles, lips, palms, and even the soles of the feet. Acanthosis nigricans usually occurs when there is a more serious underlying illness.
The most common cause of acanthosis nigricans is insulin resistance. When the epidermal skin cells reproduce rapidly, causing the discoloration of skin, usually is due to too much insulin in the blood. Insulin resistance can be due to type 2 diabetes. Children who have acanthosis nigricans have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Seventy-five percent of children with type 2 diabetes will get acanthosis nigricans. Acanthosis nigricans can occur even during prediabetes.
Another cause of this skin condition is having hormonal disorders. Disorders such as ovarian cysts, underactive thyroid, or even trouble with your adrenal glands can cause you to have symptoms of acanthosis nigricans. Some drugs and supplements can also cause this as a symptom. Birth control, high doses of niacin, prednisone and other corticosteroids are all medications that can lead to this. Rarely some types of cancer with tumors in the stomach, colon, or liver can cause you to have acanthosis nigricans.
There are some groups of people that are at higher risk of having this skin condition. People of African, Caribbean, or Hispanic descent have a higher risk of getting acanthosis nigricans. As well as people who have a family history of the condition. If you have a hormonal disorder, are obese, or diabetic also puts you in a higher risk factor.
Thankfully acanthosis nigricans is easily diagnosed. Usually your doctor will be able to diagnose it through a skin exam. To test your insulin levels your doctor may want to take some blood tests, a blood glucose test or a fasting insulin test. To look for any underlying conditions that could be causing the skin condition your doctor may want to talk some x rays. If your doctor is unsure they may do a skin biopsy though this is usually very rare.
Since acanthosis nigricans is not a disease in itself, but a symptom from an underlying condition, usually treating that underlying condition will treat your acanthosis nigricans. Other things you can try to treat it are to lose weight, or stop taking medications or supplements that could be causing this condition. If cancer is present, having surgery to remove any tumors may also treat it. Stabilizing your hormones can also be key to getting rid of acanthosis nigricans. Managing your diabetes could also be a treatment option, including a special diet to reduce the circulating insulin in your blood.
There are some cosmetic solutions you can try for itch, smell or appearance. Creams that lighten the skin can be applied topically to help reduce the darkness of the patches. Laser therapy can be done to reverse the skin thickening. Antibacterial soaps and topical antibiotics can be applied to help with itch or smell of the areas. Oral acne medication can also be taken to help improve the appearance of the skin condition.
Acanthosis nigricans can cause dark thick spots of skin on armpits, groin neck, elbows, knees, knuckles, lips, palms, or soles of the feet. It is not a disease, more a condition that usually is a symptom of an underlying problem. Treating that underlying problem can treat acanthosis nigricans. It is a very common skin condition that can be easily diagnosed during a doctor’s exam. And in return easily treated when the underlying condition is diagnosed as well. People who are obese or diabetic have a higher risk of getting acanthosis nigricans, so if this skin condition has developed you will want to reach out to your doctor, you could potentially be in the prediabetes stage to where some lifestyle changes could stop you from developing type 2 diabetes as well as clear up your skin.
Dark, itchy, discolored skin can be a sign of an underlying problem. Learn more about Acanthosis Nigricans here! #HealthStatus
It is not a disease, more a condition that usually is a symptom of an underlying problem.
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