What is Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratosis (AK) is a scaly, crusty, rough lesion that forms on the skin because of excessive sun exposure. It commonly appears on the face, lips, ears, scalp, shoulders, and other regions that get a lot of sun. Typically, the affected regions develop multiple lesions. These lesions happen over time and may vanish and reappear. Often, the lesions feel itchy, uncomfortable, and can become irritated. During a comprehensive skin assessment, our dermatologists at Clear Lake Dermatology in League City or Webster, TX will examine any lesions you might have. To assess your condition, we may use a skin diagnostic test known as dermoscopy. Actinic keratosis is designated as precancerous, so if not diagnosed and treated properly, it could develop into cancer. Depending on the severity of your condition, our dermatologists will likely suggest removing the lesion(s), but we'll discuss this during your consultation.
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Causes of AK
Prolonged sun exposure is the major cause of actinic keratosis, so the condition is more common in older people. While only a small fraction of actinic keratosis turns into skin cancer, it's extremely important to have a skin exam so you can learn how to manage the condition. Typically, actinic keratosis starts as lesions that look red and scaly or as bumps that appear dark and crusty. It may also have a hard, wart-like layer. These lesions show up as small clusters that won't go away.
Symptoms of actinic keratosis
When the condition first starts, it may feel like your skin has a rough texture. Occasionally, this region may itch, burn, or just feel irritated. Over time, especially if actinic keratosis is exposed to more sun, the patchy region will turn red, scaly, raised, inflamed, and continue to grow. The further lesions spread, the higher the chances are of developing skin cancer. You should have any symptoms assessed by a professional so that you receive the best treatment plan to help prevent skin cancer.
Early diagnosis and treatment are imperative so that an isolated actinic keratosis (or even multiple keratoses) does not become skin cancer. The treatment option recommended will vary based on several factors, like your age, health, skin color, severity of your condition, and growth characteristics. Usual treatment choices include:
- Cryosurgery: the method of taking liquid nitrogen and using it to freeze and destroy lesions
- Electrodesiccation & Curettage: a procedure that eliminates skin lesions by scratching the skin down to an unaffected layer
- Medications: certain medications can minimize the appearance and amount of lesions, as well as reduce the likelihood of scarring
- Chemical peels: the chemical agents used in chemical peels may eliminate the top layer of unhealthy skin, thereby stimulating new growth and replacing the damaged tissue
Plan Your Procedure
- Recovery Time
- 1 - 2 weeks
- How Long It Takes
- 30 minutes
When you have lesions that you think may be related to sun exposure or could be actinic keratosis, we recommend contacting either of our Clear Lake Dermatology locations — League City or Webster, TX. When diagnosed early, patients can prevent actinic keratosis from turning into skin cancer. During your appointment, we'll provide a comprehensive analysis of your skin condition and provide the best treatment plan for you.