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Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition featuring elevated pigmentation and hardening of the skin. It typically tends to occur in those areas where creases or folds of the skin are more prominent, such as the back of the neck, the groin and the armpits.

Acanthosis nigricans can be considered as an abnormality of the skin. It can also be seen as a symptom of an underlying medical condition or disorder.

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Due to the unsightly appearance of acanthosis nigricans, it can cause increase anxiety and concern in the individuals affected by the condition. Even though there no known ways to directly cure the disease, treating the possible underlying causes of acanthosis nigricans, can lead to its eventual disappearance along with the other related skin irregularities

Acanthosis Nigricans Symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms of acanthosis nigricans are mentioned below:

  • The identification of acanthosis nigricans is often done via detection of pigmented, velvety, discolored patched of atypical skin that commonly elicits a pattern of solid skin. It can occur in any area of the body, but is generally seen in the skin folds occurring in the groin, the posterior of the neck and the armpits.
  • One can observe the presence of skin tags in and around the affected regions
  • The mucous membranes occurring in the mouth, the nasal passageways and the respiratory canals may also be vulnerable to developing the lesions
  • The skin surfaces or the mucous membranes affected by acanthosis nigricans may experience the growth of many anomalous finger-like growths.
  • The malignant types of acanthosis nigricans may experience severe development of lesions on the soles of feet as well as on the palms
  • Itchiness of the affected regions is quite rare
  • Individuals affected by cancerous forms of acanthosis nigricans are mostly middle-aged and often not overweight. However, they are prone to sudden lesion flare-ups.
  • Most of the skin changes related to the disease progress slowly over some months and may even take a few years

Types of acanthosis nigricans

The two main types of acanthosis nigricans are malignant and non-cancerous. The cancerous kids are rare, while benign forms are more prevalent and also called ‘pseudoacanthosis nigricans’

Acanthosis nigricans are categorized into seven types as listed under:

  • Acanthosis nigricans that is associated with obesity is the most common kind. It generally affects adults, but can occur across age groups. The obesity in patients is often caused by insulin resistance
  • Individuals who are affected by various disorders such as Cushing’s syndrome, total lipodystrophy, hyperinsulinaemia or polycystic ovary syndrome are typically found to be affected by syndromic acanthosis nigricans
  • Benign acanthosis nigricans is most prominent in persons with dark skin, more so in those with African American lineage. It causes widespread development of hardened, velvety lesions on the palms and the soles of the feet. The other related symptoms are mostly absent. This type is also known as acral acanthotic anomaly
  • The drug induced form of acanthosis nigricans is rare and typically caused due to hormone therapy as well as intake of different medications such as insulin nicotinic acid, and systemic corticosteroids.
  • Hereditary benign acanthosis nigricans may lead to formation of lesions. It occurs across age groups and passes down in families as an autosomal dominant trait
  • Malignant acanthosis nigricans type is often associated with the occurrence of an internal cancer, the most common being cancer of the stomach and other malignancies of the gut. Most instances of malignant forms of acanthosis nigricans result in the formation of lesions in the oral cavity, on the lips and tongue.
  • Mixed-type acanthosis nigricans is a type of acanthosis nigricans that is caused due to a preexisting case of another form of the condition. For example, syndromic acanthosis nigricans can progress into a malignant type acanthosis nigricans

Causes of Acanthosis Nigricans

  • Different studies have indicated that acanthosis nigricans is associated with elevated insulin levels, which are typically triggered by pre-existing conditions such as obesity or type 2 diabetes
  • The additional insulin leads to anomalous activities in the skin cells, which in turn results in the characteristic changes in the skin
  • Individuals with darker skin are at increased risk to developing acanthosis nigricans
  • The hereditary form of acanthosis nigricans has a genetic cause
  • Underlying tumors, Hormonal abnormalities endocrine anomalies, and other types of similar conditions can also result in acanthosis nigricans
  • Consumption of certain medicines such as birth control pills or large amounts of niacin can trigger a case of acanthosis nigricans

Acanthosis Nigricans Treatment

  • There is no widely accepted, specific way to treat acanthosis nigricans. Most treatment methods are aimed to managing and treating the symptoms.
  • Oral drugs like isotretinoin, fish oil supplements, etc. may be recommended by physicians
  • Creams or lotions that consist of retinoids may be recommended by dermatologists to lighten the affected skin regions
  • Obese individuals may be asked to regularly exercise and bring in dietary changes
  • Laser surgery is one of the options to alleviate the hardened skin
  • Topical antibiotics and antibacterial soaps may help in elimination of the bad odor emitted by the areas affected by acanthosis nigricans.

Acanthosis Nigricans Pictures

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