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Home :: Actinic keratosis

Actinic Keratosis - Causes, Symptoms And Treatment For Actinic Keratosis - Solar keratosis

Alternative names :: Solar keratosis, Sun-induced skin changes - keratosis, Keratosis - actinic (solar)

What is Actinic keratosis ?

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition characterized by rough, scaly patches on the skin of your face, lips, ears, back of your hands, forearms, scalp and neck. It's caused by frequent or intense exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, typically from the sun. Actinic Keratos are also known as "solar keratoses". An actinic keratosis is a scaly or crusty bump that forms on the skin surface. Dermatologists call them "AK's" for short. They range in size from as small as a pinhead to an inch across. They may be light or dark, tan, pink, red, a combination of these, or the same color as ones skin. The scale or crust is horn-like, dry, and rough, and is often recognized easier by touch rather than sight.

Microscopically, actinic keratoses show varying degrees of microscopic epidermal atypia and abnormal maturation, clinically manifested by keratotic and scaly lesions. Actinic keratoses are mainly due to long-term exposure to the sun in susceptible persons and may progress to squamous cell carcinoma. The presence of actinic keratoses indicates that sun damage has occurred and that any kind of skin cancer -- not just squamous cell carcinoma can develop. People with actinic keratosis are more likely to develop melanoma also. Sun exposure is the cause of almost all actinic keratoses.

What are the causes of Actinic Keratosis ?

Actinic keratoses are the most common premalignant lesions. The persons with fair skin, especially those who sunburn easily and tan poorly as well as those whose occupations or hobbies result in excessive sun exposure, are at increased risk of developing actinic keratoses. The growths occur in sun-exposed skin areas. Even those who are darker-skinned can develop keratosis if they heavily expose themselves to the sun without protection. The growths begin as flat, scaly areas that later develop a hard wart-like surface.

Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis

Some of the common symptoms of Actinic Keratosis includes :-

  • Rough and dry textured skin lesion.
  • Patches or small spots on the skin.
  • Initially flat and scaly on the surface, becoming slightly raised.
  • May appear as red-brown to yellow ill-defined macules, papules, or plaques with dry scales.
  • Actinic keratoses is most commonly involve sun-exposed areas of the head, neck, arms, legs, and backs of the hands.

Treatment for Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratoses represent precancerous changes, have them examined promptly, and follow the health care provider's advice for treatment. There are a number of effective treatments for eradicating actinic keratoses. Not all keratoses need to be removed. The decision on whether and how to treat is based on the nature of the lesion, age, and health. Some of the common treatment for Actinic Keratosis are :-

  • Shave Removal utilizes a scalpel to shave the keratosis and obtain a specimen for testing. The base of the lesion is destroyed, and the bleeding is stopped by cauterization.
  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen causes blistering and shedding of the sun damaged skin. Keratoses treated on the face peel off after about 10 days, those on the hands in about 3 weeks, but those on the legs can take as long as twelve weeks to heal. A light freeze usually leaves no scar, but longer freeze times (necessary for thicker lesions or early skin cancers) result in a pale mark.
  • Topical cream is effective in removing keratoses, particularly when lesions are numerous. The patient twice daily applies the medication, with progress checked by a physician. 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) cream, the most commonly used medication, is used for 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Diclofenac in hyaluran gel has been used successfully to treat Actinic Keratosis.
  • Imiquimod is an immune response modifier in a cream base. It is applied to areas affected by Actinic Keratosis. two or three times weekly for four to sixteen weeks. Helps to stop the growth of Actinic Keratosis.

Prevention tips for Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis may be prevented by protecting skin from ultraviolet radiation. Sun protection is vital for all fair skinned people working or enjoying themselves outdoors. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen on exposed skin every day. Apply sunscreen at least half an hour before exposure, and reapply frequently.

Wear protective clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants. Ultraviolet light is most intense midday, so try to avoid exposure during these hours.

Diagnostic tests for Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratoses can generally be diagnosed clinically, but biopsy may be indicated to verify diagnosis or exclude underlying malignancies. Biopsy sections show varying degrees of epidermal atypia and abnormal maturation of actinic keratinocytes.

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