What is 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 very common and one of the most prevalent skin concerns that send patients to their dermatologist.
Are Actinic Keratoses Dangerous?
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.
Signs and Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis
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.
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.
How is Actinic Keratosis Treated?
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.
How Long do Actinic Keratoses Last?
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.
What Are Seborrheic Keratoses?
This benign skin condition begin as slightly raised, light brown spots -most often on the trunk. Gradually they thicken and take on a rough, bumpy surface. Seborrheic Keratoses look like they were attached to the skin instead of being part of it.
Who Gets Seborrheic Keratoses?
The people who are most likely to get these growths have family members with seborrheic keratoses. Less frequently these growths appear during pregnancy or after estrogen replacement therapy.
What Causes Seborrheic Keratoses?
Although the cause of these growths is unknown, Seborrheic Keratoses seem to run in families and be hereditary.
How Are Seborrheic Keratoses Treated?
Since these growths are harmless, treatment is usually not necessary. If a patient does not like the appearance of the growths, a dermatologist can freeze the growth to remove it.