Actinic Keratosis, also called solar keratosis, is a crusty growth caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays. There are usually multiple growths (actinic keratoses) and in addition to being unsightly, keratoses may be a precursor for squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma. It’s important to treat keratoses promptly, to ensure that they don’t become skin cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with actinic keratosis in the past, you need to see a dermatologist every six months or even more often, since keratoses will often continue to appear throughout your life.
Keratoses usually appear on sun-exposed areas, such as the top of the head, the face, lips, ears, neck, shoulders, forearms, legs, and the back of hands.
Itchy or burning skin, lips that feel constantly dry, or lesions that appear, flake off, then reappear in a few days or weeks may indicate actinic keratosis.
In its earliest stages, actinic keratosis may be nearly invisible. You may notice a rough, sandpapery texture when running your finger over your skin. Often there are more lesions under the surface at this stage.
When keratoses become visible, they may be elevated or flat, and either pink, tan, brown, red, flesh-toned, or some combination of these colors. They may look like warts or odd, horn-shaped moles.They may start small and occasionally disappear and then reappear. Over time, they can become up to a quarter of an inch wide. Sometimes keratoses become red and inflamed and may even bleed.
Actinic Keratosis is usually diagnosed by an initial skin exam, followed by a biopsy.
There are several safe, effective treatment options available. Photodynamic Therapy, also called Blue Light Therapy, is a great option.
Other options include chemical peels, curettage (when your dermatologist snips away damaged tissue), cryotherapy, and laser resurfacing.
Some keratoses can be treated with topical ointments.
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