Actinic Keratosis - Diagnosis & Treatment

Howsden Dermatology - Actinic Keratoses

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition characterized by one or more rough, scaly patches as a result of cumulative sun exposure.

Actinic keratosis can occur on any part of the body, but it most often occurs in out-of-the-way areas where a person has omitted using sunblock. This includes the ears, lips, back of the neck or hands, or even the scalp.

Actinic keratosis is sometimes called solar keratosis because it is caused by sun exposure. Those over the age of 40 are more apt to develop this condition since it occurs from the cumulative effects of UV light exposure.

Screening and treatment for actinic keratosis is available at Howsden Dermatology.

What are the Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis?

Though actinic keratosis can differ from one person to another, the signs and symptoms remain the same across the board. Typically, the most common signs and symptoms include a patch of skin that is dry, rough, or scaly. Most often, this patch of skin is less than one inch in diameter.

Other symptoms include color variations such as brown, red, or pink, itching or burning, crusting or bleeding, a slightly-raised bump on the top layer of skin, and new patches on such sun-exposed areas as hands, neck, head, and forearms.

Types of Actinic Keratosis

There are five different types of actinic keratosis:

  • Hypertrophic
  • Atrophic
  • Bowenoid
  • Acantholytic
  • Pigmented

Of these five, the hypertrophic and atrophic types are the most common.

Also, studies have shown that for those individuals who suffer from hypertrophic actinic keratosis, there is a greater chance it may evolve into a form of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.

What Causes Actinic Keratosis?

When an actinic keratosis forms, it is most often due to a person being exposed to intense UV rays on a frequent basis.

While most cases result from overexposure to the sun's UV rays, many people with this condition have also exposed their skin to the intensity of tanning beds.

While anyone can potentially get an actinic keratosis, some have certain risk factors that put them at even greater risk.

These factors include:

  • Having red or blond hair and either blue or light-colored eyes
  • Prior history of bad sunburns
  • Tendency to freckle or burn when exposed to sunlight
  • Aged 40 or older
  • Working primarily outdoors
  • Possessing a weakened immune system
  • Living in a sunny climate

Treatment for Actinic Keratosis

While a simple examination of your skin may allow a doctor to diagnose actinic keratosis, a skin biopsy may be performed as an added precaution.

Since it is always possible that an actinic keratosis may be a precursor to skin cancer, don't take any chances with your health. Talk to your dermatologist right away for a screening.

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