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Actinic Keratosis

Also called solar keratosis, an actinic keratosis (AK) is a dry, scaly patch or growth that forms on the skin. This skin condition generally forms when the skin is badly damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or indoor tanning. Since they are precancerous, it is important to have them evaluated and treated. Most people get more than one actinic keratosis and will continue to get new AKs over time. These patients should be under a dermatologist’s care. Treatment can be performed by lightly freezing lesions to the use of a topical medication when an extensive number of lesions are present.


Actinic Keratoses are considered precancerous and if left untreated, may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. With regular dermatology check-ups, the AKs can be treated before they become skin cancer.


Most people do not have any symptoms other than changes to their skin. However, some symptoms may occur, such as:

  • Rough-textured patch on skin that you cannot see.
  • Rough –textured patch or growth that feels painful when touched.
  • Itching or burning of the skin.
  • Constant dryness of the lips.


The most common treatment is to treat individual lesions in the office with cryosurgery (lightly freezing lesions).Topical prescription medications can also be used when an extensive number of lesions are present.

Blue Light Therapy At the Asarch Center for Dermatology, Laser & Mohs Surgery, we can treat Actinic Keratosis with Blue Light Therapy. Levulan® Kerastick® with BLU-U® Blue Light is a unique therapeutic approach to manage acne, actinic keratoses and scarring from acne. This treatment is non-invasive and effective at treating acne and actinic keratoses, as well as sun-damage on all skin types. Blue light photo-dynamic therapy works to treat actinic keratosis by killing pre-malignant skin cells and pre-cancers.


An AK can appear, remain for a long time, and suddenly flake off and disappear, leaving the skin can feeling smooth. Many of these AKs will re-appear in a few days or weeks, especially when the patient goes outdoors without sun protection.

Patients that notice the signs and symptoms of an actinic keratosis should seek the care of a dermatologist. Even if an AK flakes off and does not re-appear, you should continue to see your dermatologist. Left untreated, skin cancer can develop.



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