Acanthosis Nigricans :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Acanthosis Nigricans

When your doctor or nurse did your exam, they pointed out a dark skin patch on your neck, armpit, under the breast or a skin crease. This dark patch is called acanthosis nigricans (AAY-can-THO-sis NIG-ruh-cans), or AN. It is usually a sign that your body is making extra insulin that it cannot use well. So the insulin builds up, and as a result, you may get a dark area of skin. We call this insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a step towards developing type 2 diabetes. However, remember that not everyone with insulin resistance will develop diabetes.

AN can be embarrassing. Some people call it "dirty neck" and try scrubbing it or even using bleach to get rid of it. These don't work, though, so spare yourself the bleaching. The good news is that taking control over your weight -- learning to eat well, being active and losing some weight -- lowers the amount of unused insulin in your body. This will help get rid of AN.

Food and Losing Weight

Losing weight will be an important part of your care plan. Here are a few tips you can use:

  • Try to eat regular meals and eat when you are hungry.

  • Try to eat a low fat diet: Trim the fat and skin from meats and chicken.

  • Use low fat (1%) or skim milk instead of whole milk.

  • Try to avoid eating fried foods like French fries, chips and chicken. Instead try to eat them baked.

  • Try to eat a lot of fiber from whole grain foods like wheat bread instead of white bread.

  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Besides having lots of vitamins and minerals, they are full of fiber, too.

  • Drink water, water, and more water!

Physical Activity

The more calories you burn up, the better your body uses insulin. You don’t have to start running marathons. But make sure that you do something active every day. It can be shooting hoops, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, walking, - anything that raises your heartbeat for 20 minutes or more. Watching TV, spending hours at the computer, playing video games, and hanging out with friends does not count as exercise.

Adapted from the American Diabetes Association.

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