Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis Risks

The risks for developing actinic keratosis include the overall amount of sun exposure over a lifetime, as well as the intensity of that exposure, as well as a fair skin type.  A weakened immune system is another risk factor for the development of AK and skin cancer, whether the immunosuppression is from medications, medical conditions, or simply advanced age.  After several years, an individual actinic keratosis may be destroyed by the body’s immune system, may remain relatively unchanged, or it may progress to become a squamous cell skin cancer.

Identifying Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis can vary in their appearance.  Many of them simply feel like a hard, scratchy bump with dry skin over the top, and they can be rough.  Sometimes they can be red, or they can have a brown pigment.  When scratched, they may bleed.  Actinic keratosis are usually diagnosed based on their clinical appearance, but a biopsy is sometimes needed to distinguish between an AK and a skin cancer.

Actinic Keratosis Treatment & Therapy

Actinic keratosis can be treated in several ways.  They can be treated locally with cryotherapy.  There are also topical medications that can be applied daily over many weeks, and these medications can help your immune system recognize and get rid of the actinic keratosis that you can see, and also the beginnings of new actinic keratosis in the sun-damaged skin in the area.  These creams are meant to be used all over a sun-damaged area for weeks, and when the immune system recognizes the precancerous areas, the skin in the area will become red, crusted, and sometimes itchy or painful.  These creams are generally used in patients with numerous actinic keratosis.  Blue light photodynamic therapy can also be used to treat AK’s.  The patient sits with the medication on the area for 15-60 minutes and then under a blue light for about 15 minutes.  This causes damage to the precancerous cells.  The patient has irritated skin for several days afterwards, and the treatment is often repeated three to four times over several months to treat the AK’s.

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