Actinic Keratosis – What it is, Symptoms and Treatments of this condition. Also, an actinic keratosis , also known as solar keratosis, is a scaly growth on the skin caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. You will often see the plural, “keratoses”, because there is rarely just one.
AK is considered a precursor because, if left alone, it could develop into a skin cancer , most often the second most common form of the disease, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). More than 419,000 skin cancer cases in Brazil each year are linked to indoor tanning, including around 168,000 squamous cell carcinomas. So, check now Actinic Keratosis – What is it, Symptoms and Treatments:
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What is Actinic Keratosis: Actinic Keratosis (ak-TIN-ik ker-uh-TOE-sis) is a sparse, scaly patch on your skin that develops from years of sun exposure. It’s most common on your face, lips, ears, back of your hands, forearms, scalp, or neck.
Also known as aortic keratosis, solar keratosis, solar keratosis, and senile keratosis, an actinic keratosis grows slowly and usually causes no signs or symptoms other than a small patch or spot on your skin .
These patches take years to develop, often appearing in people over 40. A small percentage of Actinic Keratosis lesions can eventually become skin cancer . You can reduce your risk of actinic keratids by minimizing sun exposure and protecting your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Causes of Actinic Keratosis: Actinic Keratosis is caused by frequent or intense exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds.
Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis: The signs and symptoms of an actinic keratosis include:
- Dry, rough, or scaly skin wall , usually less than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter
- Flat or slightly raised birth or bump in the top layer of skin
- In some cases, a hard, wart-shaped surface
- Assorted color like pink, red or brown
- Itching or burning in the affected area
Actinic Keratosis is mostly found on areas exposed to the sun, such as your face, lips, ears, hands, forearms, scalp, and neck. It can be difficult to distinguish between noncancerous and cancerous patches. Therefore, it is best to have new skin changes evaluated by a doctor – especially if a site or lesion persists, grows or bleeds.
Actinic Keratosis Risk Factors: Anyone can develop Actinic Keratosis . But you may be more likely to develop the condition if you:
- is old
- Live in a sunny climate
- Has a history of frequent or intense sun exposure or burning
- Has red or blonde hair and blue or light-colored eyes
- Tend to freckle or burn when exposed to sunlight
- Having a personal history of actinic keratosis or skin cancer .
- Have a weak immune system as a result of chemotherapy, leukemia, AIDS, or organ transplant medications
Complications of Actinic Keratosis: If treated early, almost all Actinic Keratosis can be evacuated or removed before they develop skin cancer . If left untreated, some of these spots can progress to squamous cell carcinoma – a type of cancer that is usually not fatal with early detection and treatment.
Diagnosis of Actinic Keratosis: Your doctor will likely be able to determine if you have Actinic Keratosis simply by examining your skin . If there is any doubt, he or she may do other tests, such as a skin biopsy . During a skin biopsy, your doctor takes a small sample of your skin for lab analysis.
Usually, a biopsy can be done in the doctor’s office after a drug overdose. Even after treatment for actinic keratosis , your doctor will likely suggest that you have your skin checked at least once a year for signs of skin cancer .
Actinic Keratosis Treatments: Actinic Keratosis sometimes goes away on its own but usually returns after more exposure to the sun. Because it’s impossible to tell which spots or lesions will develop into skin cancer , actinic keratosis are usually removed as a precaution.
Medications: If you have multiple Actinic Keratosis , you may be best served by treating the entire affected area. Prescription products that can be applied to your skin for this purpose include:
- Fluorouracil cream (Carac, Fluoroplex, Efudex)
- Imiquimod Cream (Aldara, Zyclara)
- Ingenol Hydrogen Gel (Picato)
- Diclofenac Gel (Voltaren, Solaraze)
These creams may cause redness, peeling, or a burning sensation for a few weeks.
Photodynamic Therapy: In photodynamic therapy, your doctor applies a chemical solution to the affected skin that makes it sensitive to light. He or she then exposes the area to artificial light to destroy the damaged skin cells. Side effects can include redness, swelling, and a burning sensation during therapy.
Surgical and Other Procedures: If you have Actinic Keratosis , your doctor may recommend removing them. The most common methods include:
- Freezing (cryotherapy). Actinic Keratosis can be removed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. Your doctor applies the substance to the affected skin , which causes blistering or peeling. As your skin heals, the lesions shrink, allowing new skin to appear. Cryotherapy is the most common treatment. It only takes a few minutes and can be done in your doctor’s office. Side effects can include blistering, scarring, changes in skin texture, infection, and darkening of the skin at the treatment site.
- Scraping (curettage). In this procedure, your surgeon uses a device called a curettage to scrape away damaged cells. Scraping may be followed by electrosurgery, in which the doctor uses a pencil-shaped instrument to cut and destroy the affected tissue with an electrical current. This procedure requires a local anesthetic. Side effects can include infections, scarring and changes in skin color at the treatment site.
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Prevention of Actinic Keratosis: Prevention of Actinic Keratosis is important because the condition can precede cancer or be an early form of skin cancer . Sun safety is necessary to help prevent the development and recurrence of Actinic Keratosis spots and blemishes . Do these steps to protect your skin from the sun:
- Limit your time in the sun. Especially avoid time in the sun between 10 am and 2 pm. And avoid being in the sun for so long that you get a sunburn or a tan. Both result in skin damage that can increase your risk of developing actinic keratosis and skin cancer . Sun exposure accumulated over time can also cause Actinic Keratosis .
- Use sunscreen. Daily use of sunscreen reduces the development of Actinic Keratosis . Before spending time outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF. of at least 30. Use sunscreen on all exposed skin and use lip balm with sunscreen on your lips. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it every two hours or more often if you swim or sweat.
- Cover up. For extra protection from the sun, wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs. Also wear a wide-brimmed hat, which offers more protection than a baseball cap or golf visor. You may also want to consider wearing clothing or outdoor gear that is specially designed to provide sun protection.
- Avoid tanning beds. UV exposure from a tanning bed causes as much skin damage as a tan acquired from the sun. And because the radiation from a tanning bed is absorbed in a short amount of time, the photoaging process is accelerated and increases your risk of skin cancer .
- Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor. Examine your skin regularly, looking for the development of new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ear and scalp. Examine the upper and lower parts of the arms and hands.