Medically called Acanthosis Nigricans, and most fondly called “dirty neck”. Dirty neck is a common skin disorder common amongst African Americans. This skin condition is characterised by dark brownish plaque usually located around the skin of the armpits, knuckles and neck but can also appear in the insides of the thighs and fingers.
This discoloration comes as a result of the thickened skin and not as a result of an increase in skin pigmentation as commonly assumed by people. There are usually no clear symptoms except occasional itchiness.
Henceforth, we’ll refer to “Acanthosis Nigricans” as “AN” for ease of reference. AN has been associated with diseases as well as syndromes. Resistance to insulin and diabetes mellitus are two medical phenomena that are commonly associated with AN. People who suffer from AN oftentimes mistakenly believe that a dye or something they might have unconsciously touched has discolored their skin. Many even go ahead on a scrubbing spree but this will not get rid of AN.
AN is actually neither harmful nor contagious, although, sometimes, it could be a sign of a health complication that requires medical attention. Hence, it is advisable to see a dermatologist at Buckhead Dermatology in Atlanta and College Park if you notice any part of your skin that seems darker or thicker.
The AN mechanism
The dark on your skin is not in any way associated with an increase or change in melanocytes (skin cells that are responsible for producing melanin or skin pigmentation), but the dark on your skin is actually as a result of the thickening of your skin layers. As insulin levels within the body increase, insulin binds skin receptors making the skin cells reproduce and thicken. Hence you have the thick textured velvet state of an individual who has AN.
There are several types of AN, but there are only 4 major types. These are classified as hereditary, endocrinopathy associated (issues with the endocrine system), malignancy (cancer-associated) and drug-induced. Most cases of AN are idiopathic, which means they have no known cause.
When can I see a dermatologist?
As soon as you notice any sort of change to your skin color or texture you should definitely see a dermatologist at Buckhead Dermatology in Atlanta and College Park. Slight changes may seem like nothing but sometimes a slight change may be an early warning sign. Studies have shown that AN can be a sign of pre-diabetes which could increase your chances of getting diabetes. So if you take AN as a sign, precautionary measures could be taken to avert diabetes. However, AN can also be a mere skin reaction caused by a medicine you are taking, if this is the case, changing your medication might be the best option for you.
In other cases, the dark patches you see on your skin may have no connection whatsoever with any medical condition, a certified dermatologist at Buckhead Dermatology in Atlanta and College Park can assist you in finding out what could be causing your skin discoloration.