Going On The Black List? What You Need To Know About Acanthosis Nigricans

One of the great puzzles in healthcare is sorting between what health problems are health problems all on their own and what health problems are simply symptoms of a greater problem that needs to be addressed. Most problems fall under the second umbrella and are important to consider as they crop up.

An example of this is the seemingly harmless little patches of smooth, dark skin that can live in places like your neck, armpits, and groin — anywhere your body folds, basically — seemingly with no cause. If you're curious about your acanthosis nigricans and are wondering what to do about it, then here's what you need to know.

What is it?

Acanthosis nigricans is a condition that's a little hard to explain in words but is absolutely unmistakable when it appears on your body. Look for patches of skin — large or small, though they'll definitely be big enough to be visible (probably around three fingers wide) — that feel smooth, almost like velvet, that are tinted a brown or greyish black color anywhere where your skin folds.

The color won't be starkly black or brown like watercolors or paint swatches but will instead look moderately dark on your skin, like a permanent five-o-clock shadow without the stubble. The texture will also feel different than your surrounding skin, no matter how much you moisturize, but you shouldn't feel any loss of sensation.

Can it hurt?

In general, it does not hurt. This condition, while annoying, unsightly, or aesthetically embarrassing, doesn't cause any aches, pains, or other bodily discomforts. This is partially why you might not notice the skin patches if they're in an area you don't see very often, because there's no real sign of acanthosis nigricans except for visually and via touch, due to its smooth texture.

While this condition cannot hurt you, it's often a sign of other health conditions that can cause damage to your body and mind if they are not found and treated.

Why is it there?

There are a handful of health conditions that can cause acanthosis nigricans, ranging from very mild to severe.

On the more mild side are conditions such as insulin resistance (often found in conjunction with diabetes), as a side effect of hormonal birth control or growth hormones, and metabolic syndrome. Further along the spectrum are diseases such as PCOS, Cushing's, hypothyroidism, and Addison's disease. On the more severe side are causes such as different cancers and rare diseases such as Donohue's syndrome or pinealoma. 

Because acanthosis nigricans can be a result of so many different conditions, it's imperative to get checked out after discovering it on yourself. Whether it's a sign to stop taking your birth control or need to start cancer treatment, you should be thoroughly tested by healthcare services once you've confirmed the appearance of acanthosis nigricans on your body.

About Me

Preparing for a Stem Cell Transplant

About six months ago, my wonderful father discovered he had an aggressive form of lymphoma. At this time, his doctor informed him he would need to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy. My dad’s physician also told him he would need to have a stem cell transplant immediately after he completed the chemotherapy. To prepare for the stem cell transplant, my father was put on a special diet. His doctor recommended he eat a lot of protein. My dad was also told to drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. On this blog, I hope you will learn smart tips to help you or one of your loved ones prepare for a stem cell transplant. Enjoy!


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