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Last Updated on June 21, 2024

Acne Keloidalis Nuchae (AKN) is a chronic skin condition that primarily affects the nape of the neck, causing significant discomfort and cosmetic concerns. While it shares some characteristics with both acne and keloids, AKN is distinct in its manifestation and progression.

This blog explores the causes, symptoms, and various treatment options available for managing AKN, providing an educational guide for those affected by the condition and for healthcare professionals seeking to enhance their understanding on this condition.

Understanding Acne Keloidalis Nuchae

Acne Keloidalis Nuchae is a condition characterized by the presence of papules, pustules, and keloid-like plaques on the nape of the neck and occipital scalp. Over time, these lesions can merge to form large, firm, raised scars.

Additionally, it can lead to increasingly severe skin issues in the affected area, potentially resulting in scarring and hair loss. Moreover, this condition is also known by several other names, including acne keloidalis, dermatitis papillaris capillitia, and folliculitis keloidalis.

Causes of Acne Keloidalis Nuchae

Although researchers have not entirely understood the exact cause of AKN, they have identified several factors contributing to its development and progression.

  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of AKN. Individuals with a family history of the condition are at a higher risk. Additionally, the condition predominantly affects men of African descent, though it can occur in individuals of other ethnicities.
  • Hair and Skin Characteristics: The condition is more common in individuals with tightly curled hair and coarse hair texture. Hence, ingrown hairs resulting from shaving or close haircuts can exacerbate the condition, leading to inflammation and the formation of keloid-like scars.
  • Mechanical Irritation: Frequent irritation or trauma to the neck nape, such as from shirt collars, helmets, or repeated friction, can trigger or worsen AKN. Furthermore, this constant irritation can lead to follicular inflammation and subsequent scarring.
  • Bacterial Infections: Secondary bacterial infections can complicate AKN, contributing to the severity of the lesions. Additionally, staphylococcus aureus is commonly implicated in these infections, which can lead to pustule formation and increased inflammation.

Symptoms of Acne Keloidalis Nuchae

The symptoms of AKN can vary in severity and may include:

  • Papules and Pustules: Small, firm, red or flesh-colored bumps that can become filled with pus.
  • Itching and Discomfort: Persistent itching and tenderness around the affected area.
  • Keloid-like Plaques: Over time, the papules and pustules can coalesce into larger, raised, and firm plaques resembling keloids.
  • Hair Loss: AKN can lead to hair loss in the affected areas, often resulting in bald patches on the neck.

Diagnosing Acne Keloidalis Nuchae

Diagnosing Acne Keloidalis Nuchae (AKN) relies mainly on clinical evaluation, focusing on the distinctive appearance and location of the lesions on the nape of the neck and occipital scalp. Additionally, an extensive medical history and physical examination are essential to differentiate AKN from similar conditions like folliculitis keloidalis, pseudofolliculitis barbae, and hypertrophic scars.

In unclear cases, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. Furthermore, this involves taking a small tissue sample from the affected area for microscopic examination, which can reveal characteristic features of AKN. Hence, this thorough approach ensures accurate diagnosis and effective treatment planning.

Treatment Options for Acne Keloidalis Nuchae

Managing AKN requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the active inflammation and the resultant scarring. Additionally, treatment strategies can be categorized into medical, surgical, and lifestyle interventions.

Topical Medications

Topical treatments are crucial for managing it. Corticosteroids help alleviate inflammation and itching and are frequently used alongside other therapies to address active lesions. Furthermore, retinoids, such as tretinoin, aid in preventing new lesion formation by promoting cell turnover.

Additionally, topical antibiotics like clindamycin are applied to control secondary bacterial infections and reduce inflammation, providing comprehensive relief for individuals with AKN.

Systemic Medications

Healthcare providers may prescribe oral medications to comprehensively address severe cases of Acne Keloidalis Nuchae (AKN). They often recommend oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline or doxycycline, for severe or widespread infections. Moreover, these antibiotics help control bacterial growth and reduce inflammation systemically, providing relief for individuals with AKN.

Additionally, Oral Retinoids, like isotretinoin, may be considered in severe AKN cases. These medications work by reducing sebaceous gland activity, preventing new lesion formation, and improving overall skin condition. However, due to potential side effects, they are typically reserved for severe cases and require close monitoring by healthcare professionals.

Intralesional Injections

Intralesional corticosteroid injections are a common treatment option for managing this condition. Furthermore, these injections can effectively reduce the size and hardness of keloid-like plaques, thereby improving both the appearance and discomfort associated with AKN. Hence, by directly targeting the affected areas with corticosteroids, this approach helps alleviate inflammation and promote tissue healing. Steroid injections are often used in conjunction with other treatments to achieve optimal outcomes for individuals with AKN.

Surgical Treatments

Several treatment options are available for managing Acne Keloidalis Nuchae (AKN). Excision, involving surgical removal of large keloid-like plaques, may be necessary in severe cases. Moreover, this procedure requires excising the scar tissue and stitching the area closed, with caution to minimize the risk of recurrence.

Furthermore, laser therapy, utilizing treatments like carbon dioxide or pulsed dye lasers, can reduce plaque size and thickness while enhancing skin texture and color. Additionally, cryotherapy offers an alternative approach, freezing affected lesions with liquid nitrogen to reduce size and symptoms.

Lifestyle and Preventive Measures

  • Avoiding Irritation: Reducing mechanical irritation to the nape is crucial. Furthermore, wearing loose-fitting clothing, avoiding tight collars, and minimizing the use of helmets or other headgear that can cause friction are important preventive measures.
  • Proper Hair Care: Avoiding close shavings and using proper shaving techniques can help prevent ingrown hairs and reduce the risk of follicular inflammation. Additionally, regular cleansing and moisturizing of the scalp can also help maintain skin health.
  • Regular Follow-up: Regular follow-up with a dermatologist is essential for monitoring the condition and adjusting treatment plans as needed. Moreover, early intervention can prevent the progression of AKN and minimize scarring.


Acne Keloidalis Nuchae presents a significant challenge, necessitating a comprehensive management strategy. Understanding the root causes and identifying symptoms are crucial initial steps. Furthermore, by combining medical, surgical, and lifestyle interventions, individuals grappling with AKN can better control the condition and enhance their quality of life.

Additionally, collaborative efforts between patients and healthcare providers are essential in crafting effective treatment plans and halting the progression of this chronic skin disorder.


MetroBoston Clinical Partners is a well established and experienced research center in the greater Boston area. Under the leadership of qualified physicians and medical professionals, we coordinate a range of clinical research trials in Dermatology and Internal Medicine.

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