Actinic keratosis is characterized by a small rough patch of skin usually resulting from excessive exposure to the sun. It can vary in size from 2 mm up to 6 mm. This is about the size of an eraser on the top of a pencil. Keratoses usually develop on the nose, scalp, back of the neck, tops of the ears, hands and forearms. The lesions are red with a white or yellow scale on the top of them. They can also be painful when bumped or rubbed against something. This condition more commonly affects people with fair-colored skin.
Diagnosis of Actinic Keratosis
In many cases, doctors can diagnosis actinic keratosis just by examining the lesion. If the lesion is large, then a biopsy may be taken to make sure it is not cancerous. Since these lesions are caused by excessive sun exposure, they could be or have the potential to become cancerous.
Treatment for Actinic Keratosis
Numerous treatments exist for actinic keratosis. However, the best treatment is prevention, by avoiding excessive exposure to the sun. If you are commonly in the sun for prolonged periods, take the proper precautions to prevent developing actinic keratosis by applying sunscreen and wearing proper clothing.
Cryosurgery may be used to remove the lesions. Cryosurgery is performed by using liquid nitrogen to freeze the lesion. The skin will then slough off, resulting in new skin being exposed.
Photo-Dynamic Therapy can be used to decrease the appearance of actinic keratosis, by placing a dye on the damaged skin and exposing it to lights. The treatment helps reduce the lesions and is most commonly used for people who have many different lesions. The procedure usually takes around an hour and may need to be repeated for maximum results.
Creams may be prescribed to remove the lesions. Your doctor can prescribe creams that are rubbed on the affected area. These include flouraouracil and Imiquimod. The creams may cause the skin to become red and sore before the lesion will fall off or slough away. This can be very uncomfortable.
Surgical Removal is also a way to remove the actinic keratosis lesions. They can usually be removed in a doctor's office with a small amount of numbing agent placed on the skin before the doctor cuts the lesion away. Once the lesions are removed, they are usually sent to pathology to be checked for cancerous cells. This procedure does not take long and there is no downtime.
Once you have had actinic keratois lesions removed, it is recommended to stay out of the sun as much as possible and when exposed to the sun, protect the skin to prevent developing more lesions. It is also a good idea to have the lesion sites checked once a year for cancerous cells.
If you think you have actinic keratosis, find a local dermatologist to determine if you need further treatment. The earlier it is treated, the less likely the lesion could become malignant.