An actinic keratosis (AK) is a little, rough spot on skin that develops because of chronic direct sun exposure. AKs typically vary in size between two and six millimeters (in between the size of a pencil point and an eraser). They are usually reddish in color, with a rough texture, and frequently have a white or yellow-colored scale on top. There is often a prickling pain when touched. AKalso commonly includes sallowness, wrinkles and superficial capillary.
Specialized types of AKs include those that make skin protrude in a thick, hornlike way, as well as those with lower lip scaling and roughness and those blurring the lip border and nearby skin.
Those who develop AKs have the tendency to be fair-skinned people who have invested a great deal of time outdoors over the course of several years or who have exposed their skin to indoor tanning radiation. Their skin typically is wrinkled, mottled and stained from sun exposure. Others at risk for establishing AKs include those who have suppressed immune systems, such as organ-transplant clients, and those with psoriasis treated with PUVA therapy (topical long-wave ultraviolet light plus oral chemicals).
Common locations for AKs are the cheeks, bridge of the nose, rim of the ears, scalp, back of the neck, upper chest, and the tops of the hands and lower arms. Men are more likely to develop AKs on top of the ears (women’s hair often shields this location). AKs, especially on the scalp and the backs of the hands, may cause thickened skin.
AKs are precancerous, meaning they can turn into skin cancer. The chance of an individual AK progressing into an intrusive squamous cell cancer is small, but the majority of clients have numerous lesions, exposing their skin to harmful ultraviolet sunlight. This increases the possibility of developing invasive skin cancers, so dealing with AKs earlyis important.
Freezing AKs with liquid nitrogen frequently triggers them to slough off and go away. Other treatments are available, and the approaches are usually basic and uncomplicated.Patients who develop AKs are well advised to have a physician examine them each year to be sure that new lesions have not developed and that old ones are thicker and more suspicious looking.Also, consistently avoiding excessive direct sun exposure can decrease the risk of reoccurrences.