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Actinic Keratosis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


An actinic keratosis (AK), is a small crusty, scaly, or crumbly bump or horn that arises on the skin surface. It occur most frequently in fair-skinned people. It is most likely to appear on the face, scalp, back of the neck, upper chest, forearm and back of the hand.

Actinic Keratoses are formed in the epidermis. They are also known as Solar Keratoses. They are usuallyreddish in color and often have a white scale on top. It is a precancerous skin growth that occurs on sun-damaged skin often looks like a red scaly patch and feels like "sandpaper".

Actinic keratoses generally measure in size between 2 to 6 millimeters in diameter. Some actinic keratoses become invasive squamous skin cancer. The presence of actinic keratosis is a marker for other skin cancers such as basal cell carcinomas. In rare instances, actinic keratoses can bleed.

Causes of Actinic Keratosis:

The most common causes of actinic keratosis are as:-

  • Fair skin in combination with red hairs, is the main cause of actinic keratosis.
  • The immune system suppression, is also the main cause of actinic keratosis.
  • The persons, who have had lots of exposure to the sun earlier in life can easily get affected by actinic keratosis.
  • Actinic keratosis can also emerge from exposure to cancer-causing substances (carcinogenic substances) such as arsenic, X-ray radiation.
  • Peoples, who have received organ transplants recently are more prone to get affected by actinic keratosis.
  • Certain genetic disorders result in increased sun sensitivity or decreased ability to repair cell damage. These individuals have a greater propensity for developing premalignancies and malignancies of the skin.
  • Age, is also the main cause of it. Peoples, who are older than 45 are easily affected by it.

Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis:

The possible symptoms of actinic keratosis are as:-

  • The red, brown bumps are commonly occur on the head, neck, or hands but can be found on other areas of the body.
  • The patient experiences a rough texture over the affected area.
  • There will be overgrowth of skin keratin layer (hyperkeratosis) during actinic keratosis.
  • The lesions caused by actinic keratosis usually are 1 inch or less in diameter and primarily are found on areas exposed to the sun. The lesions can develop a hard, wart-like surface.
  • The bleeding may occur in chronic conditions.
  • The affected skin area get dry due to the loss of pigmentations.
  • You may have the feeling of itch, burn, or sting.
  • Flat to slightly raised, scaly patches on the top layer of your skin are common during actinic keratosis.

Treatments of Actinic Keratosis:

The most effective treatments for actinic keratosis are as:-

  • The skin lesions can be treated with topical 5-fluorouracil. This medication is applied twice daily for a period of 3-4 weeks for facial lesions.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) can also be used to treat multiple actinic keratoses. In this treatment, topical 5-aminolevulinic acid accumulates preferentially in the dysplastic cells. Patients experience pain in the areas treated.
  • CO2 laser: The treatment with CO2 laser, is suitable in destroying unwanted growth of skin.
  • Topical Medications: Some medicated creams and solutions are useful in removing actinic keratosis, when the lesions are numerous.
  • The imiquimod cream, may be used for multiple keratoses. It causes cells to produce interferon, a chemical that destroys cancerous and precancerous cells.
  • Chemical Peeling: This method makes use of trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or a similar agent applied directly to the skin. This treatment is found very effective in controling the over growth of actinic keratosis.
  • Cryosurgery: It is the most common and effective treatment for AK, it is especially effective when a limited number of lesions exist. Liquid nitrogen is applied to the growths to freeze them. Some temporary redness and swelling may occur after treatment.
  • Shave Removal utilizes a scalpel to shave the keratosis and obtain a specimen for testing. The base of the lesion is destroyed, and the bleeding is stopped by cauterization.