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Acanthosis nigricans: causes, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Acanthosis nigricans or pigmentosa is a skin disorder characterized by areas of darkened, thick, rough and velvety skin. Normally, it affects the flexible areas and folds of the body, such as the armpits, the groin, folds of the neck, the elbows, the hands and the feet. Among its most common causes are hyperinsulinism, diabetes or obesity, and although there is no specific treatment for its cure, the underlying disease or condition must be treated and some topical drugs can be applied to improve the appearance of the skin. In very rare cases, this skin condition is a warning sign of the presence of a cancerous tumor in an internal organ, but in the diagnosis this must be taken into account.

In the following FastlyHealarticle, we explain in detail what are the causes, symptoms and treatment of acanthosis nigricans.

Acantosis nigricans: causas

The acanthosis nigricans or pigmentosa usually occurs in the body when there are high levels of insulin . This excess insulin can cause skin cells to reproduce suddenly and, consequently, the skin becomes increasingly thick, dark, velvety and rough in some areas of the body, being the neck folds, the armpits, elbows, groin, knees, hands and feet are the most frequent places of appearance.

However, in addition to hyperinsulinism, other possible causes of acanthosis nigricans can be those listed below:

  • Genetic disorders
  • Diabetes.
  • Hormonal disorders, such as slow thyroid, ovarian cysts, problems with the adrenal glands.
  • Overweight and obesity .
  • Consumption of some medications, such as growth hormone, birth control pills, corticosteroids.
  • Cancer of the stomach, liver, colon, bladder
  • Lymphoma in the genitourinary and gastrointestinal tracts.

Those with a high body weight and a family history of acanthosis nigricans have been shown to be at higher risk of developing it.

Acanthosis nigricans: symptoms

The symptoms of acanthosis nigricans , generally, are reduced to the changes in the skin , that is to say, it does not usually cause the appearance of other physical signs or symptoms. People with this skin disorder tend to have the following:

  • Darkened skin
  • Velvety skin.
  • Thicker skin.
  • Dark spots or marks in the folds that usually appear in the armpits, neck, groin, hands and feet.
  • In some cases, a little stinging may be felt in the affected area.

It should be noted that all these changes that occur in the skin appear slowly and progressively.

Acanthosis nigricans diagnosis

Acanthosis nigricans is usually detected when the medical specialist observes the changes in the appearance of the skin mentioned above. In very rare cases, a skin biopsy is necessary for later analysis in the laboratory.

However, if the cause of acanthosis nigricans is not entirely clear, the doctor may request a blood test to check the level of glucose in the blood and if there are high levels of insulin, since such and As we have commented previously, hyperinsulinism is one of the most frequent causes of this skin condition. In addition to the blood test, other medical tests such as X-rays or an endoscopy may be required.

Acanthosis nigricans treatment

The treatment of acanthosis nigricans , first, must be intended to treat the underlying disease or condition that is causing these skin changes, as this will cause these are reduced or disappear. Therefore, some possible forms of treatment could be the following:

  • Losing weight: those people who have the changes in the skin that this skin disorder produces due to being overweight or obese, it is very important that they put themselves in the hands of a nutritionist and start the right diet to lose weight in a healthy way. It is recommended, above all, to reduce the consumption of carbohydrates and sugars and to include in the diet those foods that are low in calories.
  • Manage diabetes: Diabetic patients can see skin lesions reduced by keeping their disease under control at all times. In the following article, we talk about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of type 2 diabetes .
  • Suspend treatment with medications: in the event that acanthosis nigricans is a consequence of taking a specific drug or supplement, the doctor should be consulted about the possibility of suspending the treatment or replacing it with another.
  • Surgery: surgical intervention may be required in those cases in which there is a cancerous tumor and this is the main cause of the skin lesions.

Acanthosis nigricans: dermatological treatment

To treat the skin lesions caused by acanthosis nigricans and reduce the discomfort or discomfort that these can cause to the affected person, the following dermatological treatments can be used:

  • Use of antibiotic creams.
  • Applying moisturizing creams on the affected skin, those containing hydroquinone or ammonium lactate can help lighten the dermis. All topical drugs must be prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist.
  • Wash affected areas with mild antibacterial soaps and water. Cleaning the skin should be done carefully and gently, as friction could end up worsening the condition.
  • Laser treatments to reduce the thickness and thickness of the skin.

Natural remedies such as aloe vera gel, oatmeal cream or cucumber cream can be good options to naturally reduce the visibility of the dark spots caused by acanthosis nigricans and to promote a rapid recovery of the skin.

Malignant acanthosis nigricans: symptoms

The so-called malignant acanthosis nigricans is uncommon and is associated with the presence of an internal malignant tumor, especially an abdominal gastric adenocarcinoma.

Skin lesions can precede cancer diagnosis, so acanthosis nigricans could be one of the first manifestations of this type of cancer. However, in this case, the symptoms are somewhat different:

  • Skin lesions appear abruptly, spread rapidly, and are more severe.
  • They are symptomatic and the mucous membranes are often compromised.
  • They are hyperpigmented, rough and hypertrophic lesions.
  • The lips and corners of these are compromised in many cases.
  • Acanthosis pigmentosa usually coexists with other conditions, such as Leser-Trélat sign, hyperkeratosis of the palms and soles, and cutaneous papillomatosis.

Normally, with the eradication of this tumor, the skin lesions disappear, but it can reappear if the tumor is recurrent or metastasized.

Therefore, we can conclude that, especially, in those patients who do not present diseases usually associated with acanthosis pigmentosa, such as diabetes or obesity, a much more exhaustive clinical study should be carried out, especially when there are signs or indications of a neoplasm.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Acanthosis nigricans: causes, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Skin, hair and nails category .

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