Black neck (acanthosis nigricans)

    • Brief

    • This condition causes dark skin discolourations, commonly in the neck, armpits, and groin. It is common in people with conditions like obesity and diabetes.

      This condition is caused by insulin resistance, cancer, hormonal disorders and some medicines. Losing weight can reduce your risk for this condition.

      Areas affected may have thickened skin, produce an unpleasant odour, and itch. There are no specific treatments for this condition. Once the condition that causes it is managed, this skin condition tends to disappear.

    • What are the symptoms?

    • The main symptom of acanthosis nigricans is the darkish spots on the skin with a velvet-like texture. The sites are usually itchy and produce an unpleasant smell. These spots are present in areas that have folds, such as:

      • Neck.
      • Armpit.
      • Groin.
      • Underneath the breasts.
      • Knees.
      • Elbows.
    • What are the causes?

    • Acanthosis nigricans is caused by an atypical growth of skin cells. These cells begin to multiply rapidly, producing new abnormal cells that produce patches. It is usually caused by high levels of insulin but can also be triggered by cancer, medications, and other medical conditions.

    • What are the things that put you at risk?

    • Risk factors of acanthosis nigricans are:

      • Having a family member who has the condition.
      • Acanthosis nigricans is much more common in people with darker skin.
      • People who are overweight, and have more skin folds, are at risk of this condition.
    • When to visit a doctor?

    • Visit the doctor when you notice discolouration, which progresses gradually and becomes velvety, itchy and produces an unpleasant smell. The outcome of care strongly depends on the underlying condition that causes acanthosis nigricans.

    • How to prevent?

    • The following may help prevent acanthosis nigricans:

      • Manage your weight: a healthy diet and regular exercise will help you prevent becoming overweight.
      • If your family has a history of diabetes, you should get your blood sugar tested regularly, manage your weight, keep physically active and eat a healthy diet.
      • Ensure that you take your medications as prescribed for your medical conditions. 


    • How to manage and treat?

    • The main treatment for acanthosis nigricans is dealing with the underlying cause.

      Self-care tips:

      Lifestyle modifications are necessary and include:

      • A healthy diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Try to eat a low fat diet: trim the fat and skin from meats and chicken and avoid eating fried foods.
      • Exercise regularly.
      • Keep a good body hygiene. Bath or shower daily and clean your skin with mild soap.
      • Cosmetic measures include skincare products that remove the top layer of the skin, such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid and trichloroacetic acid.
      • Take nutritional supplements that contain omega3 fatty acids.

      Treatment options:

      • Changing medication that might cause this condition.
      • Using insulin reduction medications like metformin.
      • Cancer treatment.
    • Kulawa cares

    • Darkish patches on the skin can be problematic, but acanthosis nigricans will usually disappear when the cause is treated. It is, therefore, important to see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment early.