Acanthosis nigricans: When dark skin turns to be alarming

Our skin is the most exposed organ to change. Every day we can notice depigmentation, hyperpigmenantion, skin rashes and a lot of others damages of the skin. But when does this symptoms turns to be alarming?

We have a lot of diseases which starts with these symptoms.

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin disorder characterized by darkening and thickening of the skin, occurring mainly in the armpit area, groin and back of the neck.

Acanthosis nigricans is not a skin disease per se, but a cutaneous sign of an underlying condition or disease.

It typically occurs to individuals younger than age 40, may be genetically inherited, and is associated with obesity or endocripathies, such as hypothyroidism, acromegaly, polycystic ovary disease, insulin-resistant diabetes or Cushing’s disease.

There are two very important types of acanthosis we must know: benign and malignant. Although classically described as a sign of internal malignancy, this is very rare.   Benign may be obesity related or hereditary. Malignant include forms that are associated with tumor products and insulin activity.

The cause for acanthosis nigricans is still not clearly defined but it appears to be related to insulin resistance. It has been associated with various benign and malignant conditions. Based on the predisposing conditions, acanthosis nigricans has been divided into 7 types.

Here are the signs and symptoms you must recognize:

  • Brown or black discoloration on your skin.
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin have a bad odor
  • Affected skin may feel velvety and thicker than the surrounding skin
  • Skin tags may form on the darkened skin

The biggest question after recognizing the disease is how we can treat.

The primary aim of treatment is to correct the underlying disease process:

  • Correct hyperinsulinaemia through diet and medication
  • Lose weight with obesity-associated AN
  • Existing or treat underlying tumor

There is no specific treatment for AN. Treatments are primarily used to improve cosmetic appearance and include topical retinoid, dermabrasion and laser therapy. Final outcome of AN varies depending on the case of AN. Benign conditions tend to have good outcomes. However, the prognosis for patients with malignant AN is often poor and not so good. It is often associated with cancer and average survival of these patients is approximately 2 years.

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