EDINBURG – The University of Texas System Texas-Mexico Border Health Coordination at The University of Texas-Pan American is preparing to conduct an acanthosis nigricans screening for school children throughout nine South Texas border counties.
The screening is to begin Sept. 1 and is designed to provide education and suggest intervention on acanthosis nigricans and other obesity-related conditions that will assist health-care professionals, school administrators, and parents enhance the health status of children by intervening before diseases, such as diabetes, occur.
According to Paul Villas, executive director for the Texas-Mexico Border Health Coordination Office, acanthosis nigricans is a skin marker that results from hyperinsulinemia, a condition where higher than normal insulin concentrations remain in the bloodstream. Hyperinsulinemia is a compensatory result of insulin-resistance, which creates a potential risk for the development of Type 2 diabetes.
“The increasing number of youth-onset Type 2 diabetes cases has heightened new interest in children’s health, particularly in cases where acanthosis nigricans has been present at the time of diagnosis,” Villas said. “Acanthosis nigricans is a condition that can be easily evaluated by means of a visual examination. It frequently manifests itself on the nape and sides of the neck, but can also be found on the axillae, elbows, knuckles, knees, and groin area.”
According to Villas, Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans have a higher prevalence of these lesions and could be genetically predisposed and more sensitive to higher insulin levels.
“Acanthosis nigricans is important because of the increasingly alarming rates of children developing Type 2 diabetes,” said Denise Benoit, health education coordinator for the Texas-Mexico Border Health Coordination Office. “Until recently, it was believed that children could not develop Type 2 diabetes.”
Benoit said school nurses would be charged with the most dynamic component of the project. School nurses will screen children for acanthosis nigricans during state-mandated vision, hearing, and scoliosis screenings.
For data collection purposes, emphasis will be placed on acanthoisis nigricans screenings during hearing/vision screenings in the 3rd grade and acanthoisis nigricans during scoliosis screening conducted in the 5th and 8th grades or 6th and 9th grades. Blood pressure and height and weight measurements will also be performed on these children.
For more information on the screening, contact Benoit at 956/381-3687.