The skin condition called Acanthosis Nigricans fortunately is uncommon, but pseudo Acanthosis Nigricans unfortunately isn’t. If you were formally schooled in Latin, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But if you weren’t, stay tuned!
Let’s start with what Acanthosis Nigricans... Which I'm going to refer to as AN in this episode... Start with what it looks like, which’ll then make you want to know more. And just to make it a little more interesting, the real Acanthosis Nigricans and “faux” Acanthosis Nigricans, which is the more common Pseudo Acanthosis Nigricans, look essentially identical.
Since Acanthosis just means a thickening or overgrowth of the upper layer of your skin and Nigricans really means dark or black, if we put this together its really a descriptive term from which you expect to see a dark overgrowth or thickening of your skin. Acanthosis Nigricans appears as tan to dark brown velvety surfaced plaques with parallel lines which when even deeper look like velvety parallel ribs like the nap of carpeting. You usually get it on the parts of the body where skin tends to rub against skin, such as underarms, neck and upper inner thighs, but it can occur in other areas as well.
Because these brown, raised, unattractive patches and plaques don’t itch or burn or in any other way bother you except cosmetically, which is personally important and a real quality of life issue, the medical importance of Acanthosis Nigricans is why it occurs and whether it reflects something important internally.
Most cases of Acanthosis Nigricans are not true Acanthosis Nigricans, but fortunately the Pseudo form which occurs from being overweight. The real Acanthosis Nigricans comes from certain endocrine diseases such as diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, other less common hormonal imbalances, BUT and most importantly, Acanthosis Nigricans can be a reflection of an internal cancer which most commonly are malignancies of the gastrointestinal tract, uterus and sometimes even the lung, prostate, breast or ovary. And last there are some people who have Acanthosis Nigricans with no apparent associated disease and are not overweight.
For the first group whose Acanthosis is associated with obesity, endocrine problems or cancers, treating the underlying condition will result in a remarkable improvement of the Acanthosis, but what about those people who fortunately don’t have an underlying disease causing this but still have the cosmetic impact of thickened brown skin?
For those people there are ways of minimizing the cosmetic impact of this unusual rash. Because it’s caused by thickening and darkening of the skin, treatment with products that bleach the extra brown and reduce the dead layers of the skin are helpful.
So believe it or not, even with the unusual, here we are back to treatment with exfoliants and bleaches once again.