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Acanthosis Nigricans - Symptoms & Treatment


Acanthosis nigricans is a very common skin disorders characterized by asymptomatic, brown to black, with a velvety texture which often affects the armpits, groin and neck. Acanthosis nigricans usually appears slowly and doesn't cause any symptoms other than skin changes. The condition can also at times occur under the arms and in the groin. Acanthosis Nigricans may occur in association with an underlying cancerous tumor (i.e., malignant AN). Various benign (non-cancerous) forms of AN have been identified in which the disorder may be inherited as a primary condition or associated with various syndromes.

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition that signals high insulin levels in the body. Insulin is produced by an organ called the pancreas. Insulin is important because it helps "carry" the glucose or sugar to the cells in your body. High insulin levels indicate that the body is resisting the insulin that is being produced. If the patient is obese, the eruption may clear with weight loss or correction of the underlying endocrine disorder. Some cases are genetically inherited. It is most common among people of African descent. Acanthosis nigricans is mainly a cosmetic concern. Acanthosis nigricans screenings can help identify persons who have high insulin levels and who may be at-risk for developing the disease. Once identified, the necessary measures to lower the insulin levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes can be taken. The most common malignancy associated with malignant acanthosis nigricans is abdominal adenocarcinoma, especially of the stomach.

Causes of Acanthosis Nigricans

There are many causes which leads to Acanthosis Nigricans. Some are listed below:

  • Drugs, particularly hormones such as human growth hormone or oral contraceptives ("the pill"), can cause acanthosis nigricans.
  • Certain medications - such as human growth hormone, oral contraceptives and large doses of niacin - can contribute to the condition.
  • People with Cancers of the gastrointestinal or genitourinary tracts or with lymphoma can also develop severe cases of acanthosis nigricans.
  • Acanthosis nigricans is sometimes associated with being overweight.
  • Many hormone problems, endocrine disorders or tumors may cause acanthosis nigricans.
  • Other causes include chronic hepatitis and ingestion of large doses of niacin.

Symptoms of Acanthosis Nigricans

Here are the list of some of the common symptoms of Acanthosis Nigricans:

  • dark, thick, velvety skin in body folds and creases - typically the armpits, groin and neck.
  • skin changes appear slowly,
  • rough areas or increased skin markings usually on the back and sides of the neck.
  • abnormally increased coloration (hyperpigmentation) and "velvety" thickening (hyperkeratosis) of the skin
  • light-brown-to-black

Treatment of Acanthosis Nigricans

There is no definite cure for acanthosis nigricans. Because acanthosis nigricans itself usually only causes changes to the appearance of the skin, no particular treatment is needed. It is important, however, to attempt to treat any underlying medical problem that may be causing these skin changes. Acanthosis nigricans may not be life threatening but it sure indicates an underlying condition that may prove fatal if ignored. Therefore it is necessary for the examiner to make a proper diagnosis so that the patient can be treated accordingly and any new or worsening symptoms can be controlled before they assume a malignant form. Some treatmetn options are given below:

  • Correct hyperinsulinaemia through diet and medication
  • Lose weight with obesity-associated AN
  • Excise or treat underlying tumour
  • Stop offending medicines in drug-induced AN

Types of acanthosis nigricans

  • Obesity-associated acanthosis nigricans
  • Syndromic acanthosis nigricans
  • Benign acanthosis nigricans
  • Drug-induced acanthosis nigricans
  • Hereditary benign acanthosis nigricans
  • Malignant acanthosis nigricans
  • Mixed-type acanthosis nigricans

 

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