Patient Information – Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that is caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight, especially on areas that are frequently exposed, such as the face, neck, scalp, hands, and forearms. Here is some general information about actinic keratosis that may be useful for patients:

1. Symptoms: Actinic keratosis typically appears as rough, scaly patches or lesions on the skin. These patches may be pink, red, or brown, and may itch or burn. They may also bleed or develop a crust.

2. Causes: The main cause of actinic keratosis is prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Other factors that may contribute to its development include a history of sunburns, a weakened immune system, and exposure to certain chemicals.

3. Diagnosis: A Skin Cancer Doctor or dermatologist can diagnose actinic keratosis by examining the skin. In some cases, a biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

4. Treatment: Treatment for actinic keratosis typically involves removing the affected skin cells. This may be done using cryotherapy (freezing), curettage (scraping), or topical medications such as imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil or field treatment with photodynamic therapy.

Click on the pictures for further information on each of the treatment options.

Topical Fluorouracil Cream
Topical Imiquimod Cream
Photo Dynamic Therapy

5. Prevention: The best way to prevent actinic keratosis is to protect your skin from the sun. This includes wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats, using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and avoiding the sun during peak hours (10am-4pm).

6. Prognosis: Actinic keratosis is usually a benign condition, but it can sometimes develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Therefore, it is important to have regular check-ups with a dermatologist to monitor any changes in the affected skin.