Actinic Keratosis Treatment

Home Dermatology Actinic Keratosis Treatment

Excessive sun exposure is not without its perils, especially for your skin. Direct exposure to sunlight can do many disfavors, from cosmetic concerns to several skin conditions. Most people only know about the skin darkening effect of UV rays and direct heat from the sun. But the fact is this impact can be severer. One of the pitfalls of exposing your skin to direct sunlight is actinic keratosis, a condition widely known as a precursor to skin cancer.

What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a skin condition identified by a scaly patch or a bump on the skin surface. This condition is usually a result of ultraviolet damage and is pretty common among a vast population. Actinic keratosis lesions generally occur on sun-exposed areas such as the bald scalp, face, lips, and back of the hands.

In some instances, this condition can transform into squamous cell skin cancer. For this reason, actinic keratosis lesions are generally regarded as precancerous.

That being said, early diagnosis and treatment prevent the transformation of these lesions into skin cancer. This is why actinic keratosis is not considered life-threatening.

What are the symptoms of actinic keratosis?

The appearance of actinic keratosis varies from person to person. Some common signs and symptoms of this condition include:

  • Dry, scaly, or rough patches or spots on the skin, generally measuring less than one inch
  • A hard surface that may look like a wart
  • Flat or slightly raised patches or bumps on the top skin layer
  • Different color variations, ranging between red, pink, and brown
  • Burning, itching, crusting, or bleeding in the affected area

What are the 5 common risk factors of actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is generally caused by frequent or more prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun. Tanning beds have also been found to cause this problem. Here is a list of the five most common risk factors that may lead to actinic keratoses.

  1. Blue or light-colored eyes and blonde or red hair
  2. Sun-exposed areas on the skin or a history of sunburn
  3. Weakened immune system
  4. Being older the 40
  5. Skin surface that is more prone to developing freckles or burns when exposed to direct sunlight

Actinic Keratosis Treatment Options

People with damaged skin due to excessive UV exposure generally develop actinic keratosis and are at a heightened risk of developing skin cancer. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis is key to successful actinic keratosis treatment. During diagnosis, your healthcare provider will sift through your skin and ask questions about your symptoms, health, and current medications. They will also look for the signs of skin cancer growth.

In some cases, when there is a suspicion of skin cancer, your dermatologist may perform a skin biopsy to get the actinic keratosis tissues examined in a lab.

Mainly, there are four popular options to treat actinic keratosis. The doctor will choose the most suitable option and devise a treatment plan depending on your diagnosis.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery or cryotherapy is a procedure of applying liquid nitrogen to the actinic keratosis lesion. This causes the actinic keratosis cells to freeze and die. The nitrogen application also causes blistering or crusting in the treated region. This blistering peels away after a few days. In many cases, only one cryotherapy session eliminates the AK cells. However, multiple sessions may be required in some cases.

Chemical peel

The chemical peel you receive to treat actinic keratosis is not the same one you get in salons and spas. This treatment uses a medical-grade skin peeling solution that specifically helps remove actinic keratosis cells. After this treatment, there may be some redness, swelling, and soreness in the treated region. These pitfalls ward off as your skin heals. In the end, you get a healthy, blemish-free skin surface.

Laser treatment

Laser treatment for actinic keratosis mainly helps remove precancerous growths. This treatment is most suitable for actinic keratosis on the lip, but it may also help eliminate a lesion on other skin areas. Your dermatologist will tell whether laser resurfacing for your actinic keratosis lesion.

Laser treatment uses a laser beam to destroy and remove actinic keratosis cells. This treatment causes the treated skin to become raw and sore temporarily. The post-treatment recovery lasts one to two weeks, after which you get smoother, healthier skin.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments are generally a part of a home skincare regimen and are typically prescribed by a dermatologist. The primary advantage of this treatment option is that it helps you take care of multiple actinic keratoses, including those not easily visible on the skin.

Topical treatments generally involve using anti-cancer creams, gels, and medicated solutions prescribed by your dermatologist.

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Actinic Keratosis Treatment Results

The results of actinic keratosis treatment generally depend on the degree of UV damage and the number of lesions on your skin. It also depends on your skin condition’s tendency to transform into cancer. A few actinic keratoses can be cleared with one or two sessions of prescribed treatment at the clinic. But for a large number of actinic keratosis, you may need to remain under the consistent care of your dermatologist.

Remember, the risk of new actinic keratosis and skin cancer is higher after treatment when you have too many lesions. This problem can be resolved with timely clinical visits and following your dermatologist’s instructions to remain well-committed with the treatment plan.

How much does it cost to remove actinic keratosis?

An actinic keratosis treatment plan is based on the type of treatment and number of sessions. Hence, the cost of actinic keratosis treatment is best determined during the initial consultation when a dermatologist examines your lesions and estimates the treatment sessions you may need to resolve your problem.

Actinic Keratosis Treatment FAQs

What happens if actinic keratosis is left untreated?

Actinic keratoses are rough precancerous skin lesions that, if left untreated, can lead to a skin cancer type known as squamous cell carcinoma.

Is actinic keratosis painful?

Actinic keratoses often remain painless. However, they can cause pain and itchiness in some cases. Painful lesions usually hurt when they contact clothes or are touched upon. This actinic keratosis may even bleed in some cases.

How long does it take to treat actinic keratosis?

Actinic keratosis may take three months to disappear after treatment. The time actinic keratosis treatment takes to show results generally depends on the size and number of lesions.

Can actinic keratosis go away on its own?

Yes, some actinic keratoses may go away without needing any treatment. However, since these lesions can be cancerous, it is essential to consult a dermatologist for timely treatment.

What is the fastest way to get rid of actinic keratosis?

Cryotherapy is generally considered the fastest way to treat AK as it freezes the problem cells, prompting their quick elimination.

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Did excessive UV exposure damage your skin and cause lesions that look like actinic keratoses? It is undoubtedly the time you should visit an experienced dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. At EuroMed Clinic Dubai, we offer top-of-the-line cosmetic and skincare solutions to retain healthy and aesthetically perfect skin. For more information or to book a consultation, you can fill out the form below.

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    Dr. Fazeela Abbasi has been in the field of dermatology since 2003. She is a DHA-licensed dermatologist specializing in advanced laser techniques, Botox, PRP therapy, rosacea treatment, etc.

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