Dark skin around the groin area indicates a skin disorder called acanthosis nigricans. The condition affects people of any age, notes the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, or AOCD. It is seen more often in people with dark pigmentation, particularly those of African descent. Though they manifest in otherwise healthy people, acanthosis nigricans and dark skin in the groin area are usually symptoms of a larger underlying medical concern, so it's important to consult with a doctor.
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Dark skin in the groin area is most often caused by elevated insulin levels, according to AOCD. This is typically seen in conjunction with obesity or resulting from type 2 diabetes or other conditions affecting insulin levels. Some medications cause the condition as a side effect, including those that regulate hormone or cholesterol levels and systemic corticosteroids, notes the New Zealand Dermatological Society, or NZDS. In some cases, according to the Cleveland Clinic, the darkened skin results from other medical conditions such as Addison's disease or pituitary or thyroid disorders. Some cancers, particularly in the stomach, can cause dark skin, according to NZDS. In rare instances, acanthosis nigricans is hereditary, points out MayoClinic.com.
Dark skin in the groin area is generally thickened and velvety in texture. These changes may appear anywhere on the body, but tend to show in skin creases and folds. Skin elsewhere on the body is usually similarly affected, particularly on the armpits or neck. It is not uncommon for the lips, soles of the feet or palms of the hands to be affected as well, according to MedlinePlus. In some instances, darkened skin itches, and, if left unchecked, it often spreads slowly, says MayoClinic.com. Skin tags or lesions are sometimes seen on affected areas, too, reports NZDS.
It is usually a sign that a person is dangerously overweight and has insulin resistance when skin around the groin darkens. The health risks associated with these conditions--including liver disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancers--are numerous and potentially life-threatening. The darkened skin may also indicate glandular problems or malignancy.
A primary care physician or dermatologist can usually identify dark groin skin as acanthosis nigricans with a visual examination. If a patient is obese and/or has documented insulin resistance, that will likely be diagnosed as the underlying cause. However, further testing may be needed to figure out the cause. This includes a biopsy, blood tests, x-rays or other tests.
The primary treatment for dark skin around the groin is weight loss and insulin level management through improved dietary habits, including limiting of sugars and starches, and increased physical activity, says AOCD. Instances when medications cause the discoloration require cessation of the particular treatment, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Remedying underlying disorders is necessary when they trigger dark skin. Topical skin treatments such as retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids or urea can fade discoloration, and cosmetic procedures such as dermabrasion or laser therapy can improve the appearance as well.