About Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratosis (AK) is a reddish, scaly, rough, tender lesion that forms on the skin in areas that are exposed to the sun. It most often appears on the face, scalp, ears, arms, and other areas frequently exposed to the sun. Generally, the areas of skin affected will have more than one lesion. For this reason, the plural of this condition is known as actinic keratoses. These lesions develop slowly over time and may disappear and reappear. They are often itchy, uncomfortable, and become inflamed. During a thorough skin assessment, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adean Kingston of Adean Kingston, M.D., PLLC in Dallas, Texas will analyze the lesion, sometimes utilizing dermoscopy. This skin condition is considered precancerous, so it can be a cause for concern if not treated as it could develop into skin cancer. Removal of the lesion(s) will most likely be recommended and treatment options discussed during your examination.
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Excessive sun exposure is the primary cause of actinic keratosis and it is more prevalent in older individuals from years of cumulative sun damage. While only a small percentage of AKs turn into skin cancer, it's important to understand what this skin condition looks like and how to treat it. Usually, this skin condition shows up as lesions that look red and scaly, as well as bumps and dark crusty areas that show up in several clusters that do not heal.
When the condition first appears, it may only feel like rough texture on the skin. Sometimes this area will itch and become irritated. Over time, especially if it is exposed to more sun, the patchy area will turn red, scaly, bumpy, and inflamed and continue to grow. The more they spread, the greater the chances of developing skin cancer. Any warning sign should be checked as soon as possible, so treatment can be provided and future prevention discussed.
Early intervention and treatment is important so that an isolated actinic keratosis (or multiple actinic keratoses) does not become skin cancer. The treatment option recommended will vary depending on numerous factors such as your age and health, skin color, how widespread the condition is, growth characteristics of the lesion(s), location, etc. Usual treatment options include:
- Cryosurgery – the method of taking liquid nitrogen and using it to destroy lesions
- Electrodesiccation & Curettage – a procedure which removes skin lesions by scraping the skin down to an unaffected layer
- Medication – certain medication can be helpful in reducing the appearance and volume of lesions and reducing the incidence of scarring
- Chemical peels – certain agents used in chemical peels can remove the top layer of unhealthy skin, stimulating new growth and replacing the damaged tissue
Reverse Sun Damage
If you have lesions that you believe may be related to sun exposure and could be actinic keratosis, we recommend calling our Dallas, Texas practice, Adean Kingston, M.D., PLLC to schedule your consultation. Almost all AKs can be eliminated if caught and treated early. We will provide a thorough analysis of your skin and give the best possible recommendation for a healthy, long-term outcome.