The Short Story on Skin Problems and PCOS
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Should You Be Worried About Acanthosis Nigricans?
Women with PCOS (or PCOD) often experience skin overgrowths including patches of dark, brown, velvety skin. These skin patches are properly known as acanthosis nigricans and can occur anywhere on the body. PCOS skin conditions, which are usually aesthetically displeasing and invariably troubling to women, are quite common with PCOS. The good news is, one of the influencing factors of PCOS, which is Insulin Resistance, can be managed with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and appropriate nutritional supplements.
It’s not uncommon for people to find discolorations on their skin, differences in texture from one body part to another, or new features on their body they did not notice before. Sometimes deciding whether they are new or have been there for a while can be difficult, but more often than not people forget about these changes in their skin and move on with their daily lives.
If you’re a woman who has, or suspect you have, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), these changes in your skin should not be overlooked. Any change in your body has the potential to reveal something important about your health. So if you’re a woman who has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) you need to be especially aware of how your body is reacting to your environment, diet, and overall lifestyle.
PCOS: What Is It?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that stems from an imbalance in sex hormones. Your female reproductive system is regulated by a very delicate balance of “male” and “female” sex hormones, namely estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When the levels of these sex hormones become imbalanced, your female reproductive system cannot function according to its normal routine. In the case of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), your body creates too many male sex hormones and the high levels of testosterone prevent the female reproductive system from adhering to its menstrual cycle.
But Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) does more than just interrupt your menstrual cycle—it creates a variety of symptoms that are often painful and embarrassing for the women who suffer from them, like acanthosis nigricans.4 Some of these symptoms can include:
- Infertility: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the leading causes of female infertility. This being said, it is no wonder that many women do not realize they have PCOS until they have difficulty conceiving a child. Although this symptom is not visible to the outside world, it is one of the most emotionally damaging side effects of the condition. For women who want to be a mother, to have a baby, and to raise a family, infertility can be devastating. Additionally, it can cause rifts in marriages and even make women question their place in life.2
- Polycystic Ovaries: Despite the name ‘Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome’ you may not have a single ovarian cyst. All of the women who suffer from this condition experience different combinations of symptoms, and although ovarian cysts are common, they are not present in one hundred percent of cases. Although these cysts are usually benign, they can interact with ovulation and sometimes become painful. 2
- Hair Loss and Growth: Due to the excess testosterone in their systems, women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can experience abnormal patterns of hair loss and growth. First, they can experience a condition akin to male pattern baldness, which results in the thinning and loss of hair. Or they could suffer through hirsutism, which is the excess growth of hair in visible areas, such as on the face, back, and chest. Regardless of which symptom women experience, abnormal hair growth and loss can be embarrassing and difficult or time-consuming to treat.2
- Skin Conditions: Off-balance hormone levels can wreak havoc on the skin, and women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are prone to acne, skin tags, and acanthosis nigricans. These skin conditions are not life threatening, but they can make women uncomfortable and self-conscious. They are also damaging to emotional health becasue they can cause self-esteem to plummet when they are severe.2
- Sleep Disorders: Although women experiencing health problems certainly need as much rest as they can get, the unfortunate truth is they often suffer from sleep disorders that prevent them from getting quality sleep. Sleep apnea and insomnia are the two common side effects of PCOS, and they can cause extreme fatigue, moodiness, and other side effects that can interfere with a woman’s daily life.2
- Emotional Disorders: The emotional stress of coping with these symptoms can be overwhelming, and that in and of itself can lead to anxiety and depression. To make matters worse, women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome also have off-balance hormone levels that can trigger these emotional issues. 2
- Irregular or Sporadic Menstrual Periods: Caused by the presence of too much testosterone, women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome often miss their periods because their reproductive systems are unable to adhere to a regular cycle.2
- Anovulation: A lack of ovulation is one of the primary causes of infertility, and women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can experience this symptom quite often.2
- Weight Issues: Women with PCOS often face issues with obesity. A study in China showed, “Hyperandrogenism (imbalance of male sex hormones) and Insulin Resistance are much more severe in obese adolescent PCOS,” providing a link between PCOS symptoms and obesity.6
How Does PCOS Cause Acanthosis Nigricans?
To answer this question, another issue will first have to be addressed. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is often influenced by an underlying case of Insulin Resistance. Insulin Resistance occurs when the body’s cells become unable to respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin normally binds to the cell and allows glucose to enter and convert into energy, delivers this energy to the mitochondria (which power the cell), and ensures that blood sugar levels are even. Insulin Resistance prevents the hormone from functioning properly and causes an imbalance in the endocrine system. This can result in a variety of different health conditions, from high blood sugar and fatigue to full-blown diabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Acanthosis nigricans is a common symptom of Insulin Resistance, one that alerts the body to the fact that insulin is not being properly used. For many women, this is the first visible sign they have an endocrine disorder. Acanthosis nigricans is manifested as a thickening and darkening of the skin (or dark skin patches).3 Having been described by some people as being “velvety” in texture, this symptom usually appears in the joints and folds of the skin, especially on the thighs, behind the neck, and on the vulva.
Because this skin condition can be a sign of Insulin Resistance, it often accompanies many other health conditions. In fact, it has been correlated with several different illnesses, including endocrine disorders, inherited disorders, obesity,5 diabetes, and cancer, among others. Although acanthosis nigricans can point toward other health conditions, some of them very serious, it is not itself dangerous (although it does cause cosmetic problems that can be difficult to cope with).
How Can PCOS Be Controlled?
How Is Acanthosis Nigricans naturally treated?
First and foremost, if you have this condition you should treat the underlying issue. Weight loss (if applicable) combined with a healthier lifestyle will help you to alleviate this skin problem. Women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are encouraged to abide by the following four tips to help get their condition under control:
- Eat a healthy, nutritious diet that does not stimulate excess insulin. In fact, try to eat foods that will produce the least amount of insulin possible. Stick to a diet that is high in fiber and low in sugar and carbs (but do not cut them out completely). When you do eat carbs, you should stick to complex carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index.
- Exercise regularly. Getting great exercise means something different from one woman to the next, but the bottom line is that women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome need to keep their bodies moving and be as active as possible. Regardless of whether working out means walking around the block or hitting the gym for an hour, you need to improve your overall physical fitness without injuring your body.
- Use nutritional supplements that are specially formulated supplements made with vitamins, minerals, and botanicals to suit a particular purpose. The formulas should be developed to target specific systems of your body and help manage particular ailments. With this boost of nutrients, your body will be better able to fight back.
- Reach out for support. Opening up about the pain that Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome causes can be difficult, especially if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression. However, having the emotional support of others is crucial in maintaining a healthy outlook and amassing the emotional strength necessary to keep fighting PCOS. Support groups are located all across the country, and online, and can connect you with women who are also battling PCOS.
Acanthosis nigricans might seem, on the surface, to be a cosmetic issue. But for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome it indicates a deeper, more serious concern. Coping with this, and the other symptoms this condition entails, can be hard on you, emotionally and physically. But by following the right diet, getting in a good amount of exercise, taking the right nutritional supplements, and reaching out to other women you can fight back and, ultimately, regain your health and your self-confidence. Insulite Labs is here to help you on your journey with information and the best nutritional supplements to battle Insulin Resistance. There’s no cost to explore our website or to talk to one of our PCOS experts so feel free to contact us today.
How Is Acanthosis Nigricans Treated?
There are cosmetic options for acanthosis nigricans that is severe or not being managed by natural means. There are three main treatments:
- Laser therapy
- Topical retinoids
Both dermabrasion and laser therapy are sensitive procedures that should be performed by a certified dermatologist. Topical retinoids are used because they increase the normal shedding of skin cells. The result can sometimes reduce the appearance of the lesions.1
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- Credit to Falk Photo for providing the image of the doctors performing dermabrassion surgery falk / Shutterstock.com
The Insulite PCOS System is not intended to be medical treatment, nor is information on this website intended to be a substitute for the advice or care of a health-care practitioner. The Insulite PCOS System is a combination of nutritional supplementation and lifestyle programs intended to help individuals better manage their health and wellbeing. Consult a health-care practitioner before beginning the Insulite PCOS System. Because of ongoing research, clinical experience, and the rapid accumulation of information relating to the subject matter discussed on this website, the website's users are advised to carefully review and evaluate the information on this website and continue to expand and broaden their knowledge of new information as it becomes available on this website and elsewhere. The use or application of the information contained on this website is at the sole discretion and risk of the user.
Since June 2008, Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health has supported more than 2.4 million women through the Insulite PCOS System, through this website, through emails providing information and support, through consultations with our Consulting & Advisory Team, through telephone conference calls, through online webinars, through published articles, and most recently, through social media community building and support efforts. Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health are singularly dedicated to improving the lives of women with PCOS and conditions resulting from Insulin Resistance.
This website has been written by the research team at Insulite Health, a division of Insulite Laboratories. The members of the Insulite Health research team are experts in dealing with issues related to Insulin Resistance. Click here to learn more about the research team at Insulite Health.
This website is published by Insulite Laboratories. For more than a decade, Insulite Laboratories has been an authority on health conditions relating to Insulin Resistance, including PCOS. Find us on Google+