Acanthosis Nigricans
Metabolic Health
Medically Reviewed iconMedically Reviewedcevron icon

All You Need to Know About Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis Nigricans is a condition where the skin becomes velvety and thick. Based on the skin tone of a person, it can even become darker. It would not be incorrect to consider Acanthosis Nigricans sign of diabetes or an underlying condition called insulin resistance.

Acanthosis Nigricans can be seen in the skin folds around the armpits, groyne and neck. Acanthosis Nigricans and diabetes are often associated because it is a symptom of an underlying condition and has higher chances of occurring in people with diabetes and obesity or individuals using certain medicines. In most cases, this condition might also occur in people with cancer.

Treatment generally involves addressing the underlying condition, although certain topical approaches and cosmetics can improve the symptoms.

What is Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis Nigricans, a fairly common skin pigmentation disease, is characterised by thick and velvety skin texture. The affected areas of the skin might have an odour and might also itch.

Experts consider this condition as a warning sign of pre-diabetes, and thus acanthosis nigricans diabetes type 2 and acanthosis nigricans type 1 diabetes go hand in hand. 

Effective treatment for the condition involves focusing on acanthosis nigricans diabetes, which is the root of this medical issue.

The skin patches disappear when the condition is treated from its root successfully.

What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Acanthosis?

Symptoms of Acanthosis Nigricans

Major symptoms of acanthosis nigricans include hyperkeratosis and hyperpigmentation. An individual might notice certain changes in the texture and colour of their skin. The skin colour might become brown, grey or black, and the skin's texture and appearance might get velvety.

These changes generally take months and even years to come to the forefront. However, if they start appearing very quickly, you must consider them a cancer symptom. An individual might also notice:

  • Excessive roughness
  • Dryness
  • Itching
  • Nail changes
  • Skin tags
  • Unusual odour

People might also experience these skin modifications in just one side of their body, called unilateral acanthosis nigricans.

Skin changes generally develop slowly, and occasionally, they might be present from birth. But more commonly, they appear in adulthood and childhood. Skin changes can take place anywhere, but they typically affect the:

  • Neck folds, specifically on the sides and back of the neck
  • Armpits
  • Groyne
  • Genitals
  • Knees
  • Anus
  • Under the breasts
  • Elbows
  • Knuckles
  • Soles of the feet
  • Palms of the hands
  • Belly button

Causes of Acanthosis Nigricans

The skin patches caused due to acanthosis nigricans occur when the epidermal skin cells multiply very quickly. High insulin levels in the blood trigger this atypical growth of the skin cells. One of the most common triggers for acanthosis nigricans is excessive insulin in the bloodstream.

When we eat, the body transforms carbohydrates into sugar molecules, like glucose. The cells use a part of this glucose for energy, and our body stores the rest. Excessive insulin causes the skin cells to reproduce faster. People with more skin pigment have cells with more melanin, and this excessive melanin produces darker skin patches than the skin surrounding them.

The occurrence of acanthosis nigricans is one of the strongest predictors of future diabetes.

Different medicines can also cause acanthosis nigricans:

  • Nicotinic acid
  • Injected supplementary insulin
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • Birth control pills
  • Systemic glucocorticoids
  • Bodybuilding supplements
  • Thyroid medicines
  • Oestrogen
  • Protease inhibitors

All these medicines can result in changes in levels of insulin. When you stop taking the medicines, the condition heals on its own.

Other Potential Causes of Acanthosis Nigricans

Quite rarely, acanthosis nigricans can take place because of:

  • High niacin dosage
  • Gastric adenocarcinoma or stomach cancer
  • Low levels of thyroid hormones
  • Addison's disease or adrenal gland issues
  • Pituitary gland disorders
  • Genetics
  • Some autoimmune disorders, like Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Sjogren's disease

Treatment for Acanthosis Nigricans

Please note that acanthosis nigricans is not a disease - it is just a sign of diabetes and an indicator that you might have to seek medical attention. The treatment for this condition usually focuses on treating the underlying condition causing it.

Overweight individuals will have to maintain moderate weight and might also have to take medicines to control their blood glucose. If acanthosis nigricans is caused due to supplements and medicines, doctors might recommend discontinuing their use or going for substitutes.

Different cosmetic treatments are also available for the skin patches:

  • The use of oral acne medicine
  • Skin lighteners include salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, 20% urea, and Retin-A.
  • Laser therapy

Such treatments can improve the appearance of the skin patches caused due to acanthosis nigricans, but they will not cure this condition completely.

Book a Free Session

What Are the Risk Factors of Acanthosis Nigricans?

Acanthosis nigricans, the condition that develops in both men and women, is commonly found in:

  • Overweight individuals
  • Native Americans
  • People with ancestors from the Caribbean, Africa and Central or South America, as per the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Ones with a family history of acanthosis nigricans
  • People with pre-diabetic conditions or diabetes

How to Prevent It?

You can prevent acanthosis nigricans by practising a healthy lifestyle which includes:

  • Proper diet management
  • Maintaining moderate weight
  • Adjusting medicines that can cause the condition


Acanthosis nigricans is a sign of the underlying condition called insulin resistance and can have major health repercussions. Therefore, people noticing changes in their skin should see a doctor immediately as they might require treatment for the underlying disorder that causes acanthosis nigricans.


  1. Is acanthosis nigricans a fungus?

Yes, it is a superficial fungal infection.

Can acanthosis nigricans spread?

The different varieties of cancer-causing acanthosis nigricans can spread quickly, and it is impossible to cure them.

  1. Is acanthosis nigricans itchy?

Yes, acanthosis nigricans affected skin can be itchy. The affected skin might be itchy, have an odour and develop skin tags.

  1. How do you cure a dark neck?

Usually, home remedies like daily exfoliation and proper cleansing are the best ways of curing dark necks. You can also try homemade masks and topical retinoids.

  1. Can acanthosis nigricans go away?

Treating the underlying cause of acanthosis nigricans can make the skin patches go away and even disappear entirely.


This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.