What is actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratosis (AK) is a precancerous lesion of the skin that arises from sun damage. Actinic keratosis is also known as solar keratosis or senile keratosis. It typically appears as a rough, scaly patch on the sun-exposed skin of fair-skinned people. Most people with actinic keratosis have more than one lesion. Actinic keratosis is most commonly found on the face, lips, ears, back of the hands, forearms, and scalp. They can also occur in other sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the neck, chest, and legs. The lesions may be raised or flat and are usually less than 1 cm in diameter. They can be pink, red, or brown and may be itchy or painful. While actinic keratosis are not cancerous, they can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, if left untreated.
What are the symptoms of actinic keratosis?
The most common symptom of actinic keratosis is a rough, scaly patch on the skin. The patches are usually red, white, tan, or yellowish-brown, and they can be itchy or painful. They may also bleed easily if damaged.
Other symptoms of actinic keratosis can include:
- The sensation of itchiness or tenderness in the affected area
- Patches of rough, thickened skin
- Skin that feels dry and leathery
- Burning or stinging sensations on the skin
- Inflammation or swelling around the lesion
What are the causes of actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratosis is caused by frequent or intense exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. This is why actinic keratosis are also sometimes called sun spots or solar keratosis. People with fair skin are more likely to develop actinic keratosis because they have less melanin, a pigment that helps protect the skin from UV radiation.
What are the risk factors for actinic keratosis?
Risk factors for developing actinic keratosis include fair skin, blue or green eyes, blonde or red hair, a history of sunburns, and a family history of skin cancer. People who have these risk factors are more likely to develop the condition. People who spend a lot of time outdoors without wearing sunscreen are also at increased risk.
What are the complications of actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratosis can lead to several complications, including:
- Skin cancer: Actinic keratosis can develop into squamous cell skin cancer, which is the second most common type of skin cancer.
- Scarring: Actinic keratosis can cause scarring and changes in skin texture.
- Discoloration: Actinic keratosis can cause the skin to become darker or lighter in color.
- Inflammation: Actinic keratosis can cause the skin to become inflamed and irritated.
How is actinic keratosis treated?
There are several treatment options available for actinic keratosis. The best treatment option will depend on the location and severity of the condition.
- Topical treatments: Topical treatments are applied to the skin and can be used to treat small areas of actinic keratosis. These treatments include creams, gels, and solutions that are applied to the skin.
- Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses extreme cold to destroy abnormal cells. It can be used to treat small areas of actinic keratosis. Cryotherapy is usually done with liquid nitrogen.
- Chemical peel: A chemical peel is a treatment that uses a chemical solution to remove the top layer of skin. This can be used to treat actinic keratosis on the face, neck, and hands. Chemical peels can be done with trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or glycolic acid.
- Photodynamic therapy: Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that uses light and a chemical to destroy abnormal cells. It can be used to treat actinic keratosis on the face, neck, chest, and hands. The chemical is usually applied to the skin and left on for a period of time before being exposed to the light.
- Surgery: Surgery may be an option for actinic keratosis that does not respond to other treatments. Surgery can be used to remove the lesion and a small area of surrounding tissue. Mohs surgery is a type of surgery that is often used to treat actinic keratosis.
Can actinic keratosis be prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent actinic keratosis, but you can actinic keratosis can be prevented by avoiding overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. People who are at a higher risk for developing actinic keratosis should take extra care to protect themselves from UV radiation. This includes wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. People who have a history of actinic keratosis should also be sure to see their dermatologist regularly for skin exams.
Actinic keratosis is a condition caused by exposure to UV radiation. It can lead to skin cancer, scarring, and discoloration. There are several treatment options available, including topical treatments, cryotherapy, chemical peels, photodynamic therapy, and surgery. Actinic keratosis can be prevented by avoiding overexposure to UV radiation.