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What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis appears on skin that has been damaged by chronic exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. It appears as rough, scaly, spots on the skin that can appear as red, pink, brown or tan. Sometimes they feel sensitive to touch. If left untreated, actinic keratosis may progress to squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer.

Over time, actinic keratosis lesions may disappear, get larger, or stay the same. You should have your spots assessed by a dermatologist. If you notice that they become inflamed, harden, grow quickly, begin to bleed, or become red make an expedited appointment.

This condition is caused by long-term exposure to UV light, but you may have a higher risk of developing it if you:

  • Are over 60 years old
  • Have had chronic sun exposure
  • Have lighter skin tone
  • Sunburn easily
  • Take certain medications (hydrochlorothiazide, hydroxyurea, azathioprine, voriconazole)
  • Have a history of prior sunburns
  • Have the human papillomavirus (HPV)

Who is a Good Candidate for Actinic Keratosis Treatment?

Anyone with actinic keratosis, or who notices that their actinic keratosis is changing over time should receive treatment. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation with one of our dermatology specialists.

What to Expect During Actinic Keratosis Treatment?

Actinic keratosis can be treated in the following ways:

  • Cauterization: The lesion will be burned with an electric current, destroying the affected skin cells.
  • Cryotherapy: The lesion is sprayed with liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the cells
  • Excision: Your dermatologist will remove the lesion, as well as extra tissue around the area. Stitches may or may not be needed depending on the size of the lesion.
  • Topical medical therapy: Some topical treatments such as 5-fluorouracil, imiquimod, or diclofenac can cause the destruction of the lesions.
  •  Photodynamic therapy: During this treatment, a solution is applied over the lesion and affected skin. That area is then exposed to an intense visible light that kills the cells.

Actinic Keratosis FAQs

How can you tell the difference between actinic keratosis and seborrheic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis and seborrheic keratosis both appear as rough, scaly patches of skin that may be tan, brown, or black in color. The primary difference is that actinic keratosis has the possibility of developing into skin cancer. For this reason, it is important to seek a diagnosis from a dermatologist.

Do chemical peels help actinic keratosis?

Chemical peels can be used to treat and remove actinic keratosis for some patients.

How do you treat actinic keratosis on the face?

The most common actinic keratosis treatment is cryotherapy. Some other options include topical prescription agents such as 5-fluorouracil, imiquimod, diclofenac, and turbanibulin. Other destructive therapies include electrodesiccation, curettage, and chemical peels.

Can actinic keratosis turn into basal cell carcinoma?

Actinic keratoses can potentially develop into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated, so it is best to have them treated.

Does actinic keratosis need to be removed?

Actinic keratoses can potentially develop into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated, so it is best to have them treated.

Following Actinic Keratosis Treatment

There is little to no downtime required following actinic keratosis treatment, depending on the size of the area and number of lesions treated. Be sure to follow your dermatologist’s instructions on how to care for the treatment site for safe healing.

To prevent actinic keratosis in the future, reduce your exposure to sunlight. We recommend wearing hats and shirts with long sleeves when spending time in bright sunlight, avoid going outside midday when the sun is brightest, avoid using tanning beds, and use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when spending time outside.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are concerned regarding your actinic keratosis, do not hesitate to contact HMGS Dermatology today to schedule a consultation. During this appointment, you will be able to discuss your concerns and symptoms with your dermatology provider, as well as ask any questions that you may have.

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