Florida Dermatologist FAQ's: What is Acanthosis Nigricans? | TampaAcanthosis nigricans is a fairly common skin pigmentation disorder. Patients should consult with an experienced dermatologist to determine the right treatment approach for their condition. 

Suncoast Skin Solutions, led by board certified dermatologist Dr. Christopher Ewanowski, provides safe and proven skin care treatments to patients in Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, and surrounding locations in Florida.


Signs and Symptoms

Dark patches of skin with a thick, velvety texture are the most notable sign of acanthosis nigricans. The impacted skin areas may also be itchy or have an odor:

These patches may develop on skin folds and other regions, including:

  • Groin
  • Armpits
  • Soles of the feet
  • Knuckles
  • Neck
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Lips
  • Palms

Acanthosis nigricans may sometimes indicate a more serious medical condition, such as prediabetes. The most successful treatments focus on identifying and resolving medical conditions that may be causing this symptom. After the root condition is treated successfully, these patches usually disappear. 


Who is at Risk for Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans may develop in both men and women. It occurs most commonly in individuals who are overweight, have darker skin and diabetes or prediabetic conditions. Children who develop acanthosis nigricans experience a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. 

The frequency of acanthosis nigricans differs between various ethnic groups. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that individuals of African, Caribbean, or Hispanic heritage are also at a higher risk. In case the body mass index (BMI) is well above normal, all ethnic groups are equally at risk of developing acanthosis nigricans.


What causes Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans skin patches develop when epidermal skin cells start reproducing rapidly. High levels of insulin in the blood most commonly trigger this abnormal skin cell growth. In rare instances, the increase in skin cells may occur due to cancer, drugs, or other medical conditions. 


How is Acanthosis Nigricans Diagnosed?

Acanthosis nigricans is easily recognizable by sight. The doctor may want to examine the patient for diabetes or insulin resistance as the cause. These tests may include fasting insulin or blood glucose tests. 

In addition, the doctor may review the patient’s medications to see if they are contributing to this condition. The doctor may also perform other tests, such as a small skin biopsy, to eliminate other possible causes. 


How is Acanthosis Nigricans Treated?

Acanthosis nigricans is not a disease. It is a symptom of another condition that may necessitate medical care. The treatment is primarily focused on addressing the condition behind it. In case the patient is overweight, the doctor will advise them to lose weight. The doctor may also prescribe meds to bring their blood sugar under control. 

In case the condition has developed due to drugs or supplements, the doctor may ask the patient to stop using them or recommend substitutes. The discolored skin patches will typically disappear upon identifying and controlling the cause. 


Cosmetic Treatments

Patients who are concerned about the appearance of their affected skin may consider cosmetic treatments, such as:

  • Skin lighteners, such as Retin-A, 20 percent urea, alpha hydroxy acids, and salicylic acid
  • Antibacterial soaps
  • Oral acne meds
  • Laser therapy

While these treatments cannot cure the condition, they can improve the appearance of acanthosis nigricans.


Ongoing Care and Prevention

In general, following a healthy lifestyle can typically prevent acanthosis nigricans. Losing weight, consuming a balanced diet, and adjusting any medications that are contributing to the condition are all vital steps.

Dr. Ewanowski’s skin care clinic receives patients from Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, and nearby areas in Florida for advanced and innovative skin care procedures.  

SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Petersburg / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz (2 locations), Winter Haven, Largo, Riverview, Brooksville, Ocala, Largo at Bardmoor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, and Palm Harbor, Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.