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Dark Neck Diabetes Symptom: Why Does This Happen?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 19, 2023

Dark Neck Diabetes Symptom: Why Does This Happen?

You’ve probably already heard of the dark neck diabetes symptom before. This condition, also known as acanthosis nigricans, is a symptom that most people think is related to diabetes. But is this always the case?

Read on to learn what causes this dark neck diabetes symptom, what it means, and what you can do about it.

Dark Neck Diabetes Symptom: Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans is a condition that affects a person’s skin. This condition manifests as discolored and thick skin, and usually appears on a person’s neck. However, it can also affect the armpits, as well as the groin.

This condition usually happens in patients who are obese, or have type 2 diabetes. In particular, children who have this condition are more prone to developing type 2 diabetes later on in life. In extremely rare cases however, this can also be a symptom of cancer1.

How Do You Know If You Have Acanthosis Nigricans?

Spotting the symptoms of acanthosis nigricans is fairly straightforward. It’s referred to as a dark neck diabetes symptom since it shows a noticeable discoloration of the neck, though the skin folds in the groin and armpits can also be affected. The skin around the affected areas also looks thicker than usual2.

Since it’s caused by hyperpigmentation, or a buildup of pigment that causes dark skin, you can’t just rub it of. On its own, acanthosis nigricans is not considered as a disease. Additionally, it doesn’t cause any harm or problems, aside from aesthetic concerns.

However, it is known as a possible sign of type 2 diabetes. This is why it is important to not ignore this dark neck diabetes symptom, and make sure to get checked for diabetes if you notice that you have acanthosis nigricans.

Why Does Diabetes Cause Acanthosis Nigricans?

One question that you might have is “How can a disease that affects blood sugar cause a darkening and thickening of the skin3?” Based on what we know about this condition, it usually comes about as a result of insulin resistance3.

It’s important to note that there are some situations where patients with this condition don’t have, or are not at risk for, type 2 diabetes. Some of the other possible causes can be genetics, certain medications, or even problems with the endocrine system.

What Forms of Treatment Are Available?

If the condition is caused by diabetes or being overweight, then lifestyle changes may be effective. Once a diabetic person loses weight or has normal blood sugar levels, the skin affected by acanthosis nigricans should eventually go back to normal.

If it still does not go away, or if the cause of the condition is something else, then medications can be prescribed by a doctor. They can prescribe topical and oral retinoids to remove the discoloration on the skin. In some cases, a chemical peel can also help get rid of acanthosis nigricans4.

How Can It Be Prevented?

Preventing acanthosis nigricans or the dark neck diabetes symptom is also relatively straightforward. The best thing to do is to eat healthy, engage in regular exercise, and maintain a healthy weight.

The main reason for this condition is obesity as well as diabetes. So if you take steps in order to prevent those diseases from developing, then you can also prevent having acanthosis nigricans.

Key Takeaways

While dark skin around the neck can be caused by a number of things, the usual reason for this is increased insulin resistance. This can either result from being obese or overweight, or being at risk for or already having diabetes.
If you develop this symptom, it would be best to visit your doctor as soon as possible in order to see what can be done about it.

Learn more about Diabetes here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 19, 2023

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