What Options Are Available for Treating Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans on the neck
By Vandana Mehta Rai MD DNB, C Balachandran MD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Acanthosis nigricans are patches of dark, thickened, velvety skin that can appear behind the neck, on the thighs, or on the vulva.

What Causes Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans can be seen with obesity, PCOS, and other disorders associated with insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

Insulin resistance means that your body is not responding as well to insulin as it could be. Insulin causes glucose to be taken into the body cells to be used for energy.

Someone with insulin resistance will require larger and larger amounts of insulin to be secreted before glucose is taken into the body tissues, and eventually change the way the body deals with sugar.

How Is it Treated?

Primary treatment of acanthosis nigricans aims to correct the underlying cause. Weight loss and reversing insulin resistance are the most effective ways to eliminate any skin changes.

There are cosmetic options if the acanthosis nigricans are severe or not being managed by weight loss. Treatments include laser therapy, topical retinoids, and dermabrasion. Topical retinoids increase shedding of normal skin cells, which can reduce the appearance of the lesions.

Both dermabrasion and laser therapy are procedures that should be performed only by a certified dermatologist.

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