Acanthosis Nigricans

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Cause = Medications
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Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin disorder in which there are velvety, poorly-defined brown or black markings in folds of the skin. Parts of the body commonly susceptible to acanthosis nigricans include the neck, underarms and the groin.



There are a number of underlying diseases – both inherited and acquired – associated with acanthosis nigricans. The most common of these include:

  •          Insulin resistance;
  •          Hormonal imbalances;
  •          Obesity; and
  •          Diabetes.

In some cases, acanthosis nigricans can be idiopathic, with no known causes or associated medical conditions.


Disease pathway

Insulin resistance is the most common cause of acanthosis nigricans. An unnaturally high level of insulin circulating within the body leads to a spillover of excess insulin into the skin. 

The result is an abnormal increase in the growth of skin cells (hyperplasia), producing the visible characteristic markings on the skin.


Symptoms and diagnosis

The onset of acanthosis nigricans is typically a slow process, and presents with no symptoms other than changes to the skin.

Medical practitioners are generally able to diagnose the condition by inspection of the markings alone. In some cases, if there is no readily identifiable cause of the acanthosis nigricans, it may be necessary to perform tests in order to find one.



Usually, acanthosis nigricans only causes changes to the skin; as such, no treatment is necessary, other than for cosmetic purposes. It is necessary, however, to identify and treat any underlying disease contributing to presence of acanthosis nigricans.

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