Actinic keratosis is the condition marked by rough scaly patches on the skin due to exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun. Very often the areas of face, ears, lips and forearms will get affected due to sun exposure. Generally it will not produce any symptoms except forming a dot like spot on the skin. It will take months or even years for the spot to develop into dark patches forming actinic keratosis. It is possible to prevent these patches by protecting your skin from the harsh sunlight and covering your skin while going out.
The affected skin area will become rough forming scaly patches measuring 1-2.5 cm in diameter. The lesions will be slightly protruding from the surface of the skin and its color will be of dark brown or reddish. For some people it will form wart like structure on the skin. It can cause itching and burning sensation on the affected skin surface. These patches occur on the areas that are highly vulnerable to sunlight like face, hands, forearms, lips, ears and front of the neck. It takes time for complete healing but there is every chance for getting it back. In rare cases, the scaly patches will start bleeding oozing out thick fluid.
The major cause for actinic keratosis is the exposure to the harsh sunlight. The UV rays of the sun will damage the top surface of the skin (epidermis) causing massive changes in the skin. Actually epidermis is the protective layer which your body sheds off continuously. The cells growth of the skin occurs in systemic way in which healthy cells of the skin will push off the older cells which will be sloughed off from the skin gradually. After the damaged cells are pushed off the healthy cells will occupy the new place thus offering more protection for the skin.
When the sunlight causes intense damage to the skin cells the old cells will accumulate together to form bumps or lesions forming scaly patches. The more will be the damage to the skin, if you spend more time on the sunlight. Persons with increased actinic keratosis have chance of getting skin cancer in future.
Who are at risk?
People who live in sunny area, old-age people, having fair complexion and blond hair, having family history of skin problems or frequent illness due to sunburn and those who have weak immune system will get actinic keratosis. If not treated properly, these dark spots can develop into squamous cells causing skin cancer. Actinic keratosis can be an early indication of skin cancer.
Your doctor can identify actinic keratosis by mere physical examination of the affected skin. In case of any doubt, he may do skin biopsy by collecting small tissue of the skin to be tested on the lab.
Very often you have to be careful while treating actinic keratosis. One cannot say for sure which lesions will later develop into cancer cells. Hence your doctor will devise suitable treatment for removing these patches after considering several factors like your age, health condition and medical history etc. It will take more weeks for the dark spots to completely disappear from the skin.
Cryotherapy is done using liquid nitrogen. The freezing nitrogen is gently applied on the lesions which will shrink them thus allowing it to peel. Once the skin begins to slough off it will remove the lesions also from the surface. This therapy can be done in the doctor’s office and it takes only few minutes. Scraping or curettage is the procedure in which your doctor uses a small instrument to scrape off the lesions carefully. He will also apply short electric current after scraping the lesions to completely destroy the tissue. You will be given local anesthesia to tolerate the pain during the process. It can cause scarring and discoloration of the skin.
Topical creams like fluroplex, carac can be applied on the lesions. This medicine will destroy the keratosis lesions by disrupting the essential cellular functions in them. Ointments that contain aldara are effective for stimulating the immunity to fight against cancer causing cells. Non-steroidal creams like diclofenac are also used largely for removing lesions.
In another process called chemical peeling tri-chloro-acetic acid is applied on the lesions which will peel off the lesions along with the skin. The peeling of skin occurs for 5-7 days. However it can cause adverse effects like redness and burning sensation. In photodynamic therapy the damaged skin cells are exposed to photosensitizing light or laser beam which will eventually shrink the lesions. Dermabrasion is yet another process in which the skin lesions are removed using brush. It can leave the skin red colored and scarred until the new skin layer develops.
Pictures of Actinic Keratosis :
Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Actinic Keratosis
You can protect your skin by limiting the exposure in the sun. In case you have to go out in the sunlight, wear protective clothing and gloves for protecting your skin. Even ice and snow water can intensity the UV rays of the sun and hence limit your exposure in the outdoors even in the winter time. Avoid going out from 10AM-4PM even on cloudy days.
In case your work warrants you to go outdoors, then you need to wear sunscreen lotion that contains good sun protection factor. Apply it liberally on the face, lips and hands and neck. You have to apply the lotion at least half-an-hour before going out so that the skin absorbs it fully. Avoid using tanning beds which emit ultraviolet rays which can penetrate your skin deeply. Monitor your skin color regularly and consult your doctor or dermatologist if you observe any change in color or texture.