Diagnosis

Acanthosis nigricans is typically detected during a skin exam. Rarely, a small skin sample is removed (biopsied) for examination in a lab. If the cause of acanthosis nigricans is unclear, your doctor may recommend blood tests, X-rays or other tests to look for possible underlying causes.

Treatment

In many situations, treating the underlying problem can help fade the discoloration. Examples may include:

  • Losing weight. If your acanthosis nigricans is caused by obesity, losing weight may help.
  • Stopping medications or supplements. If your condition seems to be related to a medication or supplement that you use, your doctor may suggest that you stop using that substance.
  • Having surgery. If acanthosis nigricans was triggered by a cancerous tumor, surgically removing the tumor often clears up the skin discoloration.

If you are concerned about the appearance of your skin or if the lesions become uncomfortable or start to smell bad, your doctor may suggest:

  • Prescription creams to lighten or soften the affected areas
  • Antibacterial soaps, used gently, as scrubbing could worsen the condition
  • Topical antibiotic
  • Oral acne medications
  • Laser therapy to reduce the skin's thickness

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist) or hormone problems (endocrinologist). Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared for your appointment.

What you can do

Before your appointment, you may want to list answers to the following questions:

  • Has anyone in your family ever had this problem?
  • Does diabetes run in your family?
  • Have you ever had problems with your ovaries, adrenal glands or thyroid?
  • What medications and supplements do you take on a regular basis?
  • Have you ever had to take high doses of prednisone for more than a week?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Have they gotten worse?
  • What areas of your body are affected?
  • Have you ever had cancer?
June 02, 2015
References
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  2. Habif TP. Cutaneous manifestations of internal disease. In: Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 25, 2015.
  3. Niacin and niacinamide (vitamin B3). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com. Accessed March 27, 2015.
  4. Gibson LE. Acanthosis nigricans. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2004;79:1571.
  5. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Diabetes Mellitus and other endocrine diseases. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed March 25, 2015.
  6. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Cutaneous manifestations of internal malignant disease. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed March 25, 2015.
  7. Braunstein I. Acanthosis nigricans. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 25, 2015.