We are experiencing exceptionally high volumes in our emergency rooms.
Every patient is important to us, and we are doing all we can to provide care quickly and efficiently.
Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

Acanthosis Nigricans

What Is Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans (pronounced: ah-kan-THO-sis NY-gruh-kans) is a skin condition. It causes thicker and darker patches or streaks, usually in skin creases and folds, such as the sides and back of the neck, armpits, elbow pits, and groin. But it can show up anywhere on the body. It may look velvety or warty, or have a dirty appearance.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans appears gradually with dark, velvety patches of skin in body creases and folds, usually in the neck, armpits, or groin. It can be found on other parts of the body, including the face, chest, elbows, knees, and knuckles. It can cause mild itching, but this is uncommon.

What Causes Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans is most commonly caused by high blood insulin levels, a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is seen in people who are overweight or obese, and makes them more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It is also associated with other endocrine conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Sometimes, acanthosis nigricans can be hereditary (passed on to a person by their parents) or part of a genetic syndrome. It can be caused by medicines, such as oral contraceptives or steroids.

How Is Acanthosis Nigricans Diagnosed?

Doctors can diagnose acanthosis nigricans by looking at the affected skin.

Acanthosis nigricans itself isn't harmful or contagious. But it can be a sign that a person is at risk for diabetes. So the doctor may order blood tests to look for diabetes or other conditions associated with it.

How Is Acanthosis Nigricans Treated?

Treating the underlying cause of acanthosis nigricans can make the dark patches of skin fade or even disappear. This can mean stopping any medicine that’s causing the problem or treating diabetes and other health conditions.

Losing weight will help acanthosis nigricans fade. If you’re concerned about your weight, talk to your doctor before going on a diet.

Doctors may prescribe creams or lotions that can help lighten the skin. But most of the time, acanthosis nigricans doesn’t need treatment. 

What Else Should I Know?

Skin areas with acanthosis nigricans can look dirty, but they’re not. Scrubbing the skin does not help and can irritate it. Gently clean the skin and don’t use bleaches, skin scrubs, or over-the-counter exfoliating treatments.

Eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity can help lower insulin levels and improve skin appearance. It can help to:

  • Eat whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink water or low-fat milk instead of soda, juice, or other sugary drinks.
  • Limit highly processed foods, fatty foods, and sugary treats.
  • Be physically active every day.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: 10-01-2021

Lea este articulo en Español

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.