Actinic Keratosis

Frequently asked questions

What are the signs and symptoms of actinic keratosis? Plus Icon

Actinic keratosis typically presents as small, rough, scaly patches on the skin that develop due to chronic sun exposure.

The signs and symptoms of actinic keratosis can vary, but here are some common characteristics to look out for:

  • Patchy appearance: actinic keratosis often appears as small, discoloured patches on the skin.
    The patches can be pink, red, brown, or a combination of these colours.
  • Rough texture: actinic keratosis patches can feel rough or sandpaper-like when touched.
    They may have a gritty or scaly surface due to the accumulation of dead skin cells.
  • Size and shape: they can vary in size, ranging from a few millimetres to several centimetres in diameter.
    They can be round, oval, or irregularly shaped.
  • Colour changes: the colour of actinic keratosis patches can range from skin-coloured to pink, red, or brown.
    In some cases, the patches may have multiple colours within the same lesion.
  • Itching or burning: they can occasionally be itchy, tender, or have a burning sensation. However, not all actinic keratosis lesions cause discomfort.
  • Location: actinic keratosis typically occurs on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, scalp, neck, forearms, and hands, as well as other areas of the body exposed to the sun.

Can actinic keratosis be cured? Plus Icon

Actinic keratosis is considered a precancerous condition, and while it cannot be “cured” in the traditional sense, it can be effectively treated and managed.

The goal of treatment is to remove or destroy the abnormal skin cells to reduce the risk of progression to skin cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma.

Is actinic keratosis dangerous? Plus Icon

Actinic keratosis is considered a precancerous condition, meaning it has the potential to develop into skin cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

While actinic keratosis itself is not dangerous or life-threatening, it should be taken seriously and treated promptly due to its association with skin cancer.

If left untreated, a small percentage of actinic keratosis lesions may progress to invasive SCC, a type of skin cancer that can be more aggressive and require more extensive treatment.

The risk of progression to SCC varies among individuals, with factors such as the number of lesions, their location, and personal susceptibility playing a role. It’s important to keep in mind that not all actinic keratosis lesions progress to skin cancer, and it can be challenging to predict which ones will.

However, treating actinic keratosis can help reduce the risk of developing SCC and potentially prevent complications in the long term.

Can actinic keratosis be itchy or painful? Plus Icon

Actinic keratosis can sometimes be itchy or cause mild discomfort, although not all lesions exhibit these symptoms.

Itching or pain associated with actinic keratosis is typically mild and intermittent. The level of discomfort can vary from person to person, and may depend on factors such as the location, size, and severity of the lesions.

It’s important to note that itching or pain alone is not a definitive indication of actinic keratosis: other skin conditions or factors, such as dry skin, eczema, or irritation from sun exposure, can also cause similar symptoms.

Therefore, a proper diagnosis by a dermatologist is necessary to determine the underlying cause of the itching or pain.

If you experience persistent itching, pain, or any other unusual symptoms associated with skin lesions, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.

They can evaluate your symptoms, conduct a thorough examination, and provide an accurate diagnosis. Treatment options will be discussed based on the diagnosis to alleviate symptoms and manage the underlying condition effectively.

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