Have you ever noticed people with a dark and dirty neck?
It looks ugly, and it seems they have not taken a bath for days or maybe for weeks. Perhaps they are in a hurry that they don’t even bother to rub soap on the back of their neck. After all, this is the back, invisible to themselves. People generally tend to forget to keep that part of the body clean.
Do you really think so? Yes, at least these people think so.
They think that their dark neck is dirt accumulated on their neck, and they keep rubbing it more often. Despite this, their neck remains dark because it is NOT dirt. Then what is it? Is it caused by the neck chain that people wear? Or is it an infection?
No, neither. It is much more ominous than you thought. Though the problem appears on the skin, it is a result of problems lying inside the body. This condition is named as “Acanthosis Nigricans” by doctors.
What is this dark, patchy neck?
The dark, patchy neck is due to extra skin cells on the neck, giving it a darker look. Your elbow skin is darker because of more skin cells. Many problems inside the body may cause more skin cells on the neck. Besides the neck, skin on other body folds like underarms, groin & knuckles could also be affected.
What are the reasons for extra skin cells?
The most common reason is hormonal imbalance, especially the hormone which regulates our blood glucose level. When this fails to do its primary work efficiently, i.e., lowering blood glucose level, the body produces more of it. The increased level of this interacts with the skin cells, especially on body folds, triggering their multiplication.
Thus, more number of skin cells get produced, giving a look of dirt accumulation. The other very less often reasons could be drugs induced, hereditary, or in rare cases because of cancer.
Why does this hormonal imbalance occur?
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Oily, fatty, carbohydrate-rich junky food.
- Lack of exercise or obesity.
- Some other diseases like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and PCOS.
Would the person be necessarily diabetic/or having a high blood glucose level?
No. Not necessarily. The person might have average body weight and glucose level. But this is a warning signal that if not attended to, the person may develop diabetes with or without normal body weight.
Who is vulnerable? Is this contagious.
Anyone who is not leading a healthy lifestyle, not having healthy food, and not doing regular exercise, irrespective of gender, maybe at risk. It’s seen even in children of 8-10 years old. Obesity, diabetes, and various hormonal disorders are other risk factors. And no, it is not contagious.
Is it curable? If yes, could it come back?
If it is not too late when diagnosed, in most of the cases, yes. Appropriate medicine, regular exercise, and healthy food can completely cure it. And Yes. It could come back if a healthy lifestyle is not being followed.
Does someone have to take medicine lifelong? Or how long the medicine has to be taken?
It has to be taken as per physician’s advice. In most cases, the physician would advise taking medicine until the disappearance of dark patches. After that, exercise & healthy food should contain it. In case dark patches reappear, revisit a dermatologist.
What would be the consequences if attention is not paid to it?
If not attended to, it ultimately leads to diabetes, which is an irreversible disease.
Do all diabetic patients have a dark, patchy neck?
No, not necessarily. In some patients, the dark patches on the neck are too faint to be recognized, while some may fail to show the symptoms at all and directly head to the diabetic stage.
Is it a cause of great concern?
Yes, it is, but not a cause of great worry. Awareness and change in lifestyle will cure this. But awareness or knowledge about this lacks among patients & people around us.
What to do if you see someone with the dark, patchy neck?
Tell them that this is not dirt. Ask them not to ignore what others say and encourage them to visit a dermatologist. A brief education about the condition will undoubtedly help them to visit a specialist. Also, encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Why only dermatologists?
Dermatologists know more about skin. They could identify whether the dark patches are Acanthosis Nigricans or just hyperpigmentation or something else. No other specialist will take dark patches on the skin as seriously as a skin specialist.
How much time may it take for the dark patches to fade away?
It is purely subjective. It may vary from a few months to several months. It depends on the severity, the stage of diagnosis, and the individual’s response considering that the medicine and healthy lifestyle are followed religiously.
Over 50 million Indians have diabetes. Many of these patients could have been stopped being diabetic had they known about this dark, patchy neck condition. So, let’s spread the awareness. Whenever you see someone with a dark patch on the neck, educate and encourage them to visit a dermatologist. Also, look for dark patches on neck & knuckles in your family members and friends for the same.
Let’s spread the awareness as a small service to the Nation and Humanity.