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Acanthosis Nigricans : Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Acanthosis Nigricans is a skin pigmentation disorder that is not contagious and usually not harmful. However, this condition can be a sign of mild to severe health problems.

Acanthosis Nigricans is marked with folds of skin that are black, thickened, and textured like velvet cloth. This skin area leaves unpleasant odors and itching on the skin.

Causes of Acanthosis Nigricans

Not yet known exactly the cause of acanthosis nigricans, but generally, this condition is associated with insulin resistance. Here are a number of causes of acanthosis nigricans:

  • Acanthosis Nigricans usually appear as a result of obesity. The more severe, the higher the risk of suffering from acanthosis Nigricans. Insulin resistance. This condition causes the body to not be able to use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas to control blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is the cause of type 2 diabetes and most people with acanthosis also have insulin resistance.
  • Use of drugs and supplements. Acanthosis Nigricans can be caused by the use of drugs and supplements such as oral contraceptives (birth control pills), corticosteroids such as prednisone, and niacin in high doses.
  • Hormone abnormalities. Acanthosis Nigricans can occur in patients with hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), patients with ovarian cysts, and in patients with reduced production of hormones in the adrenal gland (Addison's Disease)
  • Acanthosis Nigricans can occur in cancer patients such as lymphoma or other tumors in the internal organs. Generally tumors of the stomach, liver, and large intestine (colon).
  • Abnormalities of the pituitary gland (pituitary) in the brain.

Acanthosis Nigricans Symptoms

Symptoms of acanthosis nigricans marked by the area of the skin are tanned, black or darker than the surrounding skin. The skin condition in this area is dry, itchy, and rough which is textured like velvet. Areas of the skin that are commonly attacked by acanthosis are:

  • Armpit
  • Neck
  • Lip
  • Knuckles
  • Palm
  • Elbow
  • Thigh fold.
  • Knee
  • Soles of the feet

Diagnosis of Acanthosis Nigricans

Doctors can recognize Acanthosis Nigricans through direct observation of the patient's skin. Generally, the doctor will check whether the patient has diabetes or insulin resistance, through a blood sugar test or an insulin test by fasting first. In addition, the patient's medical history is also examined, including a history of consumption of vitamin and mineral supplements, or supplements for building muscle mass. In rare cases, the doctor will take a few samples from the skin pieces (biopsy) that are exposed to the tincture of Acanthosis Nigricans for examination in the laboratory. In the case of Acanthosis Nigricans which is not yet known for certain reasons, doctors recommend blood tests and a number of other tests to determine the cause.

Acanthosis Nigricans Treatment

The treatment of Acanthosis Nigricans aims to treat the cause of acanthosis nigricans. Doctors will generally recommend treatment in the form of:

  • Weight loss.
  • Consumption of drugs to improve hormone levels in the body if acanthosis nigricans caused by hormonal abnormalities.
  • Given blood-sugar-lowering drugs if you have diabetes.
  • Surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy for people with cancer.

In addition to overcoming the cause, to improve the appearance of the skin, treatment can be given such as:

  • Skin lightening cream containing alpha hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, and urea.
  • Antibiotic cream.
  • Antibacterial soap.
  • Drinking acne medications such as isotretinoin and antibiotics.
  • Laser therapy that focuses on the beam that is fired to improve the appearance of the skin.

Complications Acanthosis Nigricans

The complications of acanthosis nigricans are very dependent on the cause. Acanthosis nigricans that arises when adults need to find out the cause. Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are most often associated with acanthosis nigricans, but the possibility of cancer should not be ignored.

Prevention Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans is not just a skin disorder. To prevent this is to prevent the cause, including:

  • Reducing excess weight or obesity, for example by undergoing a good diet and regular exercise.
  • Replacing certain drugs that can trigger the onset of acanthosis nigricans. Consult a doctor regarding medication replacement.

Immediately visit a dermatologist if your skin changes color and shape, both small and large changes. Sometimes even small changes can be an early symptom of diabetes or other health problems.



1. NHS Choices UK (2015). Health A-Z. Acanthosis Nigricans.

2. Roth, E. Healthline (2016). Acne Treatment: Types, Side, Effects, and More.

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