What is Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratosis is lesions on the skin due to overexposure of UV rays of the sunlight. They are considered dangerous as it is an indication of the beginning of skin cancer. Detecting this in the early stages gives a person the chance to prevent skin cancer. When diagnosed and treated properly all the lesions on the skin can be removed. If left without any treatment some types of Actinic Keratosis can progress to squamous cell carcinoma, SCC. SCC is among the most common types of skin cancer and hence any spots on the skin should be monitored by a dermatologist.
Actinic Keratosis Symptoms
The actinic keratosis appears on the skin surface that is exposed to the sun.
- It is seen most on the face, ears, hands, arms, and legs.
- It can also be seen on the scalp if there is no hair.
- The patches are scaly, thick, and crusty.
- The patches can be itchy or can lead to a burning sensation.
- The lesions are reddish-brown, yellowish tan, or skin-coloured and appear like sandpaper.
- The lesions may be flat or a raised bump or a dry patch.
- Lesions in this condition are not tender but if they have changed in appearance it could have turned into skin cancer.
It is not possible to determine if the lesions can turn cancerous. But if you notice changes in the lesions then it should be examined promptly.
Who is at Risk?
The below factors increase the risk of this skin condition:
- People who have a history of overexposure or unprotected exposure to UV radiation of the sun.
- People who have thinning hair and bald scalp.
- People who use indoor tanning
- People who have suffered sunburns
- People who live in a location that is close to the equator.
- People over the age of 40 and older are more prone.
- People who have fair skin are more at risk
- People with weak immunity due to certain medications
Actinic Keratosis Causes
Actinic Keratosis is caused due to the damage from the UV radiation of the sunlight or any indoor tanning equipment.
- When the UV light hits an unprotected skin, it can cause damage to skin cells, keratinocytes. These are the cells that give the skin its texture and are in the outermost layer of the skin.
- When the cells are damaged due to UV light the skin texture changes and become itchy, scaly, bumpy, or discoloured.
- This skin condition can happen to people with fair skin and light-coloured eyes.
- It can be caused due to organ transplant
- It can be caused due to a weak immune system
- It can happen to people who are suffering from Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, Xeroderma pigmentosum, etc.
How is Actinic Keratosis Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of actinic keratosis can be done by an experienced dermatologist. Some of the tests that will be conducted by the doctor are:
- An investigation regarding the present and past health conditions. The doctor also enquires about the medications that the person takes for any health conditions.
- The patient is asked about the symptoms.
- A physical examination of the skin is performed. The signs of skin cancer are also checked for and a treatment plan is made.
- If the doctor suspects the lesions have turned cancerous then a biopsy is ordered. That can determine if the skin patches have become SCC.
How is Actinic Keratosis Treated?
There are many actinic keratosis treatment options:
- Excision: It is removing the lesions from the skin by cutting. In some cases, extra tissues can be removed if there is suspicion of skin cancer.
- Cauterization: The lesion is burned using an electric current killing the damaged skin cells.
- Cryotherapy: A solution like liquid nitrogen is sprayed on the lesions and freezes the cells. That results in the lesion falling off after a few days.
- Topical creams can be used to reduce inflammation and destroy the lesions.
- Phototherapy can be done by exposing the lesions to laser light.
If you see skin lesions, do not ignore them! Contact our dermatologists at Cure.fit to get it diagnosed and also get an effective actinic keratosis cure.
How can Actinic Keratosis be Prevented?
Prevention of exposure to sunlight is the best way to prevent this skin condition. Apart from that, a few other prevention tips are:
- Applying sunscreen of SPF 30+ can prevent the skin from exposing to UV rays.
- Wear long sleeves pants and shirts and wear hats when you are stepping out in the sunlight.
- Avoid going out when the sun is at the brightest.
- Avoid using tanning beds as it has harmful UV radiation.
- Wear loose cotton clothes that allow enough ventilation.