Acanthosis nigricans- Skin pigmentation that needs attention

Blackening or pigmentation of the skin especially around the neck, armpit, groin, etc is not taken very seriously considering it to be an effect of ageing, pregnancy, skin allergy , etc. But actually, this kind of pigmentation , called as acanthosis nigricans, is a sign of insulin resistance or impending risk of type 2 diabetes. The affected skin appears dark, velvety and thickened or rough. It is a marker of insulin resistance which is resistance to action of insulin occurring in individuals with higher amounts of body fat (abdominal obesity) or impaired glucose tolerance.

Target groups where early detection helps!

Pregnant women– Pregnancy is associated with some amount of skin pigmentation but this peculiar pigmentation around the neck should not be taken lightly as it is an indicator of impending diabetes

Children– More recently, even children develop insulin resistance at a younger age and can be detected early by recognizing acanthosis nigricans. This puts the child at risk of diabetes at an early age.

Very rarely, acanthosis nigricans may be a sign of other hormonal disorders, effect of drugs (e.g. Corticosteroids, contraceptives, etc) or cancer.

Well, it is only a symptom and not a disease so the cure lies in treating the cause. So attempts to restore metabolic balance including normal blood sugar and insulin can help to restore the normal colour and texture of the affected skin to some extent. Whatever may be the reason, acanthosis nigricans needs medical attention


Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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