Acanthosis nigricans is a condition frequently found in people with diabetes and is most common among people of color. This condition is most usually associated with obesity, insulin resistance,or polycystic ovarian disease in women, though it can occasionally be found in people who have more serious underlying health problems such as lymphoma or cancers of the gastrointestinal or genitourinary tracts. Genetics, endocrine disorders, and certain drugs are also factors in the development of acanthosis nigricans.
Acanthosis nigricans is characterized by abnormal thickening and darkening of the skin, especially in body creases. Velvety skin with very visible markings appear in the armpits, groin, and neck. Sometimes, the lips, palms, soles of feet, or other areas may be affected. It usually appears slowly and doesn't cause any symptoms other than skin changes, such as skin tags.
Because acanthosis nigricans only causes changes to the appearance of the skin, no particular treatment is needed. But it indicates underlying insulin resistance. As a resultit is important to get good control of unchecked blood sugar levels as continuously poor diabetes management is a risk factor in the development of this condition. Weight loss can have a profound effect on decreasing acanthosis nigricans. If other causes are found and treated, acanthosis nigricans can fade.
SOURCE: Medline Plus. Medical Encyclopedia: Acanthosis nigricans. (Accessed 09/19/08.)
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 01/09
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