Actinic Keratosis - Symptoms & Treatment
The Actinic keratoses, also known as solar keratoses, grow slowly and usually cause no signs or symptoms other than patches or small spots on the skin. Keratoses are difficult to see, they feel rough and are sometimes scaly. Solar keratoses are not skin cancer, but if left untreated they can turn into skin cancer. A keratosis is most likely to appear on sun exposed areas: face, ears, bald scalp, neck, backs of hands and forearms, and lips. They are usually reddish in color and often have a white scale on top. In addition to feeling rough, actinic keratoses may feel sore or painful when fingers or clothing rub against them. Actinic keratosis can be the first step in the development of skin cancer, and, therefore, is a precursor of cancer or a precancer.
Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis
The Symptoms of actinic keratosis include:
- Flat to slightly raised, scaly patches on the top layer of your skin
- Lesions on your skin ranging in color from pink to red to brown, or flesh-colored
The presence of actinic keratoses indicates that sun damage has occurred and that any kind of skin cancer -- not just squamous cell carcinoma can develop. There may be a single lesion or more. People with actinic keratosis are more likely to develop melanoma also. Sun exposure is the cause of almost all actinic keratoses.
Causes of Actinic Keratosis
The causes of the Actinic Keratosis are given below
- Repeated, prolonged sun exposure causes skin damage which may develop into a solar keratosis.
- The sun damage responsible for a solar keratosis usually occurred years before the lesion forms
- A history of frequent or intense sun exposure or sunburn
- Pale skin
- Blond or red hair, especially when coupled with blue, hazel or green eyes
- A tendency to freckle or burn when exposed to sunlight
- A weak immune system as a result of chemotherapy, AIDS or an organ transplant
- Common locations for actinic keratoses are the face, scalp, back of the neck, upper chest, as well as the tops of the hands and forearms.
- Men are more likely to develop AKs on top of the ears, whereas women's hairstyles often protect this area.
Treatment of Actinic Keratosis
Treatment options may include:
Freezing (cryotherapy): An extremely cold substance, such as liquid nitrogen, is applied to skin lesions. The substance freezes the surface skin, causing blistering or peeling.
Creams or ointments. Some topical medications contain fluorouracil, a chemotherapy drug.
- A natural gel containing glycoalkaloids such as SunSpot Es Gelcan be very effective.
- Solar keratoses can be removed by surgery or by freezing with Liquid nitrogen.
- When there are many keratoses, a useful treatment is 5-FU (5-fluorouracil) cream