Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis)
Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Actinic keratosis facts
- What is an actinic keratosis, and what does it look like?
- Who is at risk for an actinic keratosis?
- Where on the body do actinic keratoses typically occur?
- What is the significance of an actinic keratosis?
- How is an actinic keratosis diagnosed?
- How is an actinic keratosis treated?
- What happens after an actinic keratosis is treated?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
Actinic keratosis facts
- An actinic keratosis is a small, rough spot occurring on skin that has been chronically exposed to the sun.
- Actinic keratosis is also known as a solar keratosis.
- Actinic keratoses occur most commonly in fair-skinned people after years of sun exposure.
- Common locations for actinic keratoses are the face, scalp, ears, back of the neck, upper chest, as well as the tops of the hands and forearms.
- Actinic keratoses are precancerous, which means they can develop into skin cancer.
- Doctors can usually diagnose an actinic keratosis just by physical examination.
- The best treatment for an actinic keratoses is prevention by minimizing sun exposure.
- Treatments for actinic keratoses include cryosurgery, scraping or burning, 5-fluorouracil cream, imiquimod (Aldara), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, Voltaren-XR, Cambia), ingenol mebutate (Picato), TCA skin peels, and photodynamic therapy.
What is an actinic keratosis, and what does it look like?
An actinic keratosis (AK) is a small, rough spot occurring on skin that develops because of chronic sun exposure. Actinic keratoses generally range in size between 2-6 mm in diameter (between the size of a pencil point and that of an eraser). They are usually reddish in color, with a rough texture and often have a white or yellowish scale on top. There is often a prickling pain felt when it is touched. Actinic keratosis often occurs against a background of sun damage, including sallowness, wrinkles, and excess superficial blood vessels. Actinic keratosis is also referred to as a solar keratosis.
Specialized forms of actinic keratoses include cutaneous horns, in which the skin protrudes in a thick, hornlike manner, and actinic cheilitis, a scaling and roughness of the lower lip and blurring of the border of the lip and adjacent skin. There are other causes of cutaneous horns, including warts and age spots (seborrheic keratoses).
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