What is acanthosis nigricans (AN)?

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition which causes areas of skin to darken and thicken. The affected area feels smooth and soft. It is not contagious, but it can be a warning sign of a health problem which requires medical attention. See a dermatologist if you notice an area of darker, thicker skin.

(In the picture shown, Acanthosis Nigricans is the small dot lesions over to the side under the eyes.)

Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis Nigricans

How do dermatologists diagnose this condition?

At Dermatology of Seattle we can diagnose acanthosis nigricans by examining your skin. Medical tests, such as a blood test, may be necessary. These can help discover if you are affected by another medical condition. In people with diabetes, acanthosis nigricans is more common.  it can be a warning sign of thyroid disease, or pre-diabetes, as well as other conditions.

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How can dermatologists treat acanthosis nigricans?

Treatment for the condition that is causing AN clears the skin for many patients. For example, treatment for pre-diabetes often helps to fade the dark patches. If testing finds a problem with your thyroid or adrenal glands, treating that condition can clear your skin. AN can develop without a related medical condition and treating the related disease does not always clear the skin. It is not necessary to treat AN and can sometimes be difficult to treat.

These treatments are not specifically designed to treat AN, but dermatologists have found that they can help: Prescription creams, ointments, and gels to lighten skin color. Laser treatments to reduce skin thickness, retinoids to help clear the skin, and antibiotics to decrease discomfort and odor which can be applied to the skin.