Dermatological Manifestations of Diabetes (Acanthosis Nigricans)

What is acanthosis nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans (AN) is a skin condition associated with endocrine disorders such as diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, obesity, certain drugs, and cancer. Cancer of the gastrointestinal region or lung are the two most common causes with regards to malignancy. Children who develop acanthosis nigracans are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What are the symptoms of acanthosis nigricans?

Dark, thickened velvety plaques found in the areas of the neck, under arms, groin, and under the breasts. The areas of discoloration usually have itchiness and sometimes an odor.

What are possible causes of acanthosis nigricans?

Type 2 diabetes which is due to insulin resistance is a commonly associated disease that is the cause of AN. Hormonal disorders such as ovarian cysts, hyper/hypo thyroidism, and adrenal gland issues can also cause symptoms of AN. Certain drugs such as prednisone, birth control, niacin, can result in this hyperpigmented skin condition. Although rare, cancer can be the cause of these skin changes.

What are the risk factors of acanthosis nigricans?

Heredity can be a risk factor for this condition. Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes and therefore is another risk factor for developing AN. Native Americans are the most prevalent race with this skin disorder.

How do we treat acanthosis nigricans?

Finding the underlying cause of AN is the best way to treat. Therefore, your doctor will run tests to see if you are diabetic, they will check your family history, and they will also look at your medication history to see if any of the drugs can be a causative agent. Exercise and weight reduction is very helpful in reducing the onset of diabetes and preventing secondary skin changes.

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