Why Does Acanthosis Nigricans Happen?

Acanthosis nigricans (AN) is a slightly common skin condition that leads to velvety, light-brown-to-black markings that occur in areas including the neck, armpits, groin, and under the breasts.

Photo on theprettypimple.com

What Causes Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans can develop even among people who are healthy; however, it generally correlates with specific medical complications. At times acanthosis nigricans is hereditary (something you acquire from either of your parents or relatives). It may also develop due to obesity or an endocrine (glandular) condition. It is commonly present in individuals with diabetes or a tendency towards diabetes and is most common among people of African descent. There are many other possible causes of acanthosis nigricans, including:

  • Addison’s disease, a complication as a result of a deficiency of hormones from the adrenal gland
  • Complications of the pituitary gland inside the brain
  • Growth hormone therapy
  • Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone produced by the decreased activity of the thyroid gland)
  • Oral contraceptives

A lot of individuals with acanthosis nigricans have an insulin level that is a level above that of people of similar weight who don’t have acanthosis nigricans. Overeating of the wrong foods, particularly sugars and starches, can raise insulin levels. In rare instances, people with particular types of cancer can also suffer from acanthosis nigricans.

Photo on patienttalk.org

What causes acanthosis nigricans?

Risk factors for acanthosis nigricans include: Individuals who are overweight or have hormonal complications may be more susceptible to acanthosis nigricans. In most cases, it’s a sign of an underlying problem or condition such as obesity, diabetes or abnormal hormone levels. Below is a list of the root causes of acanthosis nigricans:

Obesity-associated Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans is usually the result of obesity. It is known as obesity-associated acanthosis nigricans. It occurs because obesity can cause insulin resistance (when the body is unable to use the hormone insulin properly), which may lead to high levels of insulin in the blood, affecting the skin cells.

Insulin resistance and Acanthosis Nigricans

Insulin resistance can also cause type 2 diabetes, so acanthosis nigricans can be an early sign that you have diabetes or are at risk of developing the condition. Insulin resistance means that your body is not responding as well to insulin as it could be. People who are obese are more prone to insulin resistance or diabetes. Studies suggest that up to 74 % of individuals who suffer from obesity are likely to develop this condition. Obesity-associated acanthosis nigricans may be more among females. Insulin causes glucose to sink into the body cells for energy use. Someone with insulin resistance will need more significant amounts of insulin secretion before glucose reaches the body tissues, and eventually, change the way the body deals with sugar. One of these ways is making extra pigment.

Racial Predilection of Acanthosis Nigricans

According to the (AAD) American Academy of Dermatology, AN is more prevalent in people who are of Caribbean, Native American, African, or Hispanic origin. Acanthosis nigricans is much more prevalent in people who have a darker skin color. The prevalence in whites is not more than 1%. In Latinos, the frequency in one research was 5.5%, and, in African Americans, the incidence is higher, at about 13.3%.

Familial or Benign Genetic Acanthosis Nigricans

Individuals with family members that suffer from acanthosis nigricans are at a higher risk of developing the condition. In rare instances, acanthosis nigricans (AN) can be; as a result of by a faulty gene inherited directly from your parents. It is known as familial or benign genetic acanthosis nigricans. This type is usually passed on in an autosomal dominant manner, which means it can spread onto the next generation if only one of your parents carries the faulty gene.

Drug-induced or medication-associated Acanthosis Nigricans

This condition comes about due to particular supplements or medications. Medicines, such as hormonal birth control and steroids, increase the risk of developing acanthosis nigricans.

Syndromic Acanthosis Nigricans

This type of acanthosis nigricans is known as syndromic acanthosis nigricans; it involves having a hormonal complication. People who have these conditions that affect their hormones are more susceptible to get acanthosis nigricans than the rest. Acanthosis nigricans at times correlates with a hormone problem or an underlying syndrome, for example:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome and Acanthosis Nigricans

It is a condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries function, which can cause excessive body hair, irregular periods, infertility, acne, and weight gain. There is a significant correlation between total cystic area and the entire area of Acanthosis Nigricans in subjects with PCOS. So Acanthosis Nigricans could be a useful cutaneous marker for PCOS and the extensiveness of the cysts presents.

  • Cushing’s syndrome and Acanthosis Nigricans

Symptoms such as weight gain, bruising and stretch marks caused by very high levels of the hormone cortisol in the body

Signs and Symptoms of Acanthosis Nigricans

Photo on homeoenergy.com

Dark, thickened, velvety skin slowly develops in areas of your body where there are skin folds. These areas typically are in the armpits, groin, and the fold of the neck. Other individuals call the line on the neck the sugar line or sugar necklace. The discoloration may also appear over the joints in your fingers and toes.Your skin surface will remain soft, unlike some other syndromes where the skin toughens. In rare cases, the discoloration will form on the lips, palms or soles, and more frequently that is associated with those who have cancer.

Can dermatologists diagnose acanthosis nigricans (AN)?

A dermatologist can diagnose acanthosis nigricans (AN) by merely observing your skin surface. If your doctor diagnoses you with AN, you may need a blood test and other medical tests. These trials can assist you in discovering help find out if you have another medical condition. AN is common among individual who has diabetes. At other, AN can be a warning sign of prediabetes, thyroid disease, or another disease.

How do dermatologists treat acanthosis nigricans?

A lot of individuals see their skin clear when they get treatment for the condition that is resulting in AN. If you suffer from pre-diabetes, getting it under control often assists in fading the dark blemishes on your skin. If testing finds a complication with your adrenal or thyroid glands, treating that condition can clear your skin.It’s not mandatory that you need to have a medical complication to have AN. It’s also likely that curing an underlying medical condition such as pre-diabetes won’t wholly fade the dark patches. It’s not necessary to treat AN. If you aim to achieve an even skin surface, you need to consult a dermatologist. Treatment for AN includes the following:

  • Lighten skin color: Prescription gels, creams, and ointments.
  • Minimize the thickness of your skin: Laser treatments.
  • Reduce both odor and discomfort: The antibiotics you spread on your skin and antibacterial soaps.
  • Assists in clearing up your skin: Retinoids (maybe a pill or cream)

Not one of the procedures above is particularly for treating acanthosis nigricans (AN). Skin specialists have found, however, that these can assist in bettering the situation. At other times, AN is difficult to cure.

Scroll to Top