Actinic keratosis isn’t exactly a well-known skin condition. It sounds pretty scary, but while the condition is relatively harmless, if it’s left untreated, it does have the potential to turn into squamous cell carcinoma. So what is actinic keratosis? Is it treatable? Is it something that can be prevented?
What is Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratosis (AK) is sometimes referred to as solar keratosis. It involves scaly, crusty growths that result from damage caused by ultraviolet rays. The lesions are found on areas of the body that are repeatedly overexposed to the sun. These include the lips, the face and the back of the hands.
Most people notice them because of how the lesions feel, not because they’re visible to the eye. They often start out feeling like sandpaper or just a rough portion of the skin before they become different colors or really visible.
The lesions are raised, rough and are sometimes mistaken for warts. Some become red, but they can also be tan, pink or the normal color of the skin. Ten percent of untreated AK lesions can either turn into squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinomas.
What Causes Actinic Keratosis?
Chronic exposure to the sun without proper SPF protection is the biggest cause of AK. This can be overexposure to the sun itself or in patients who like to go to indoor tanning salons. Sometimes, actinic keratosis is caused by extensive exposure to X-rays or certain industrial chemicals.
Patients with immune dysfunction are more susceptible to AK, especially if they have a weakened immune system because of a disorder like AIDS, a transplanted organ or if they’re undergoing chemotherapy.
Older people are far more likely to develop AK because theoretically, they’ve had far more years of UV exposure than younger people. However, since tanning has become a beauty standard, more people in their twenties are being diagnosed.
How is it Treated?
There is a handful of ways to treat actinic keratosis. Photodynamic Light Therapy is becoming very common. It’s done quickly in our office, and there’s no need for invasive surgery or incisions. Topical creams can be applied to the lesions, too. These drugs can be combined with the PDT treatment in order to produce optimal results. Because the specialist has control over how deep the laser goes, scarring is very rare.
Schedule Your Appointment Today
Actinic keratosis lesions aren’t dangerous, but they’re something that should be treated regardless of their cosmetic effect. There is always the chance that the lesions can end up turning into two different types of skin cancer, and getting the lesions removed is the only way to ensure that they don’t become cancerous.
The medical professionals at Dermatology Associates would be happy to evaluate your condition and come up with a plan of treatment that will work for you. We have offices in Norwood, Foxboro and Franklin. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.