What is Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratosis (AK) is a lesion that forms on the skin in areas that have been exposed to the sun. The condition usually shows up as multiple lesions (actinic keratoses) anywhere on the lips, face, ears, scalp, neck, or shoulders. When you have AK, your skin may appear rough and crusty and can feel itchy, inflamed, and uncomfortable. These rough patches tend to develop slowly and might even vanish and reappear. At Dermatology Center of Dallas, our team in Dallas, TX will perform a comprehensive skin analysis to diagnose your specific condition. Since this skin ailment is considered precancerous, it should be treated so that it does not develop into cancer. We offer innovative options for removal, including photodynamic therapy, a noninvasive light treatment performed in our office.
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Diagnosis and Treatment
Actinic keratosis most commonly occurs in older patients with years of sun damage on the skin. Usually, the skin ailment shows up as lesions that appear red and scaly, in addition to lumps and dark, crusty areas that appear in many clusters that do not go away. Occasionally, this spot will itch and be irritated. Over time, especially if it's exposed to sunlight, the patchy place will turn reddish, scaly, bumpy, and inflamed.
The staff at Dermatology Center of Dallas will recommend the best treatment for actinic keratosis based on your age, health, skin color, and the severity of your issue. Treatment options may include medical-grade creams, liquid nitrogen treatment (cryosurgery), or chemical peels. If needed, we can perform photodynamic therapy (PDT) with Levulan® Kerastick®. First, an aminolevulinic acid solution will be applied to your skin. Once this has soaked into the treatment area, you will be exposed to a specialized blue light that is used to activate the photosynthesizing medication, which destroys cancer cells. Afterward, you should avoid exposure to direct sunlight. You may have some skin irritation, but this should subside within 2 – 6 weeks.
Actinic Keratosis FAQ
How common is actinic keratosis?
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 40 million adults in the U.S. alone develop actinic keratosis every year.
Is actinic keratosis dangerous?
While most actinic keratosis is not cancerous, a small percentage can develop into skin cancer. It is unknown which ones may develop into cancer. That’s why our team of doctors recommends regular skin examinations and early treatment of actinic keratosis.
What does actinic keratosis look like?
Actinic keratosis can appear small, dry, scaly, and/or crusty patches on the skin that can be a single or combination of colors, including red, pink, flesh-colored, light or dark tan, or white. Often it is easier to feel a patch of actinic keratosis than to see it.
How is actinic keratosis treated?
Actinic keratosis can be treated in a number of ways. At the Dermatology Center of Dallas, our team of doctors uses a variety of treatments, including:
- Medical-grade skin creams
- Chemical peels
- Photodynamic therapy
How can I prevent actinic keratosis?
The most effective way to reduce your chances of developing actinic keratosis is to protect your skin from sun damage by limiting sun exposure and wearing sunscreen or protective clothing. This is especially important for people with fair skin.
Treatment Is Available
If you have lesions related to sun exposure that may be actinic keratoses, it is a good idea to seek treatment as soon as possible. Dermatology Center of Dallas can provide a number of treatment options to improve the health of your skin, including photodynamic therapy (PDT) to remove cancer cells. The good news is that just about all AKs can be removed when caught early enough so contact our team in Dallas, TX to arrange a consultation.