Basically, Actinic Keratosis is a scaly, thick, and crusty patch that occurs in the skin. Since some of this premalignant condition progresses into skin cancer, much attention should be spent in its occurrence.
ACTINIC KERATOSIS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMSNormally, Actinic Keratosis starts as a scaly flat area. As the skin becomes constantly exposed to the sun, the scaly areas develop into thick and crusty bumps. Actinic Keratosis may appear as wart-like, coming in different sizes and colors. The size range is between two and six millimeters. The color range is between tan, red, pink, dark, light or a combination of any of those. It may occur in any sun-exposed skin area such as the face, the neck, the scalp, the chest, the forearms, and the lips.
The sun being the main trigger of the disease, it is noted that watching over one’s daily exposure to it can lessen your risk factor at developing Actinic Keratosis.
Actinic Keratosis is more of a physical disease. It can be spotted as soon as the ulcerations appear. Scaly, crusty, and thick lesions on the skin can already make you suspect Actinic Keratosis. However, further examination by a health professional is needed to establish your suspicion.
ACTINIC KERATOSIS DIAGNOSISActinic Keratosis is diagnosed upon physical examination of the patch or patches in your skin. One important note that should prompt you to become vigilant with this specific kind of bump is the fact that it may develop into a carcinoma or skin cancer. Other lesions that are of brown, raised variety should not be mistaken for Actinic Keratosis. They are often just Seborrheic Keratoses. They are not caused by sun exposure and do not only appear in areas that are commonly exposed to the sun. Seborrheic Keratoses usually run in families and has nothing to do with cancer.
When your Actinic Keratosis appears to be large and thick, your doctor may require a biopsy to ensure that your bump has not yet developed into cancer. Yes, not all bumps of this character develop into cancer. The fact that some of them do should nevertheless make you mindful of their appearance.
Early detection of Actinic Keratosis is not only helpful in keeping cancer off track but also in ensuring that infection and the invasion in the surrounding tissues are closely watched.
Aside from its physical appearance, Actinic Keratosis may also cause a pricking itchy sensation in the affected area, especially when it is further exposed to the sun.
Image: Actinic Keratosis
ACTINIC KERATOSIS CAUSESActinic Keratosis is caused by sun exposure. The effects of ultraviolet rays in the skin may not come in an instant. They may be acquired and accumulated over time. Typically, previous sun exposures develop into Actinic Keratosis years or even decades after.
ACTINIC KERATOSIS RISK FACTORPeople with fair skin color are of higher risk at developing Actinic Keratosis. In the same light, those who are blonde and red-haired, gray, green, or blue-eyed are at a greater risk of having this disease. The explanation is that, fair-skinned people have lesser protective pigments that could shield them from sun’s harm. They are most vulnerable to sunburn and to other sun-related diseases such as Actinic Keratosis.
Dark-skinned people may also be at risk. If they expose their skin to the sun frequently without any protection, they, too, can get Actinic Keratosis.
Generally, your risk at having Actinic Keratosis depends on your acquired sun exposure. Sun damage mostly occurs starting at 18 years and beyond.
ACTINIC KERATOSIS PREVENTIONAt present, prevention is considered as the most effective form of treatment. If you have developed Actinic Keratosis already, you can seek help from among the available treatments that could completely eradicate them, unless they are already cancerous.
ACTINIC KERATOSIS TREATMENTThe first line of treatment for Actinic Keratosis is through the use of a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug called Diclofenac sodium. This medication therapy is advised to last between 60 and 90 days.
Another treatment is through Cryosurgery, where the Actinic Keratosis is frozen off with the use of liquid nitrogen. In some cases, doctors use different forms of surgery such as burning or cutting away the Actinic Keratosis. The procedure to be used is established under the different circumstances that underlie the condition.
5-Flourouracil cream is also used against Actinic Keratosis. 5-Flourouracil is a chemotherapy agent that causes the inflammation to become red before it actually falls off.
Laser treatments are also quite effective in eradicating Actinic Keratosis. The resurfacing technique is the most common form that is used to diffuse this specific kind of lesion.
Then there is also photodynamic therapy. This treatment involves injection of a specific chemical onto the bloodstream. Such chemical will make the Actinic Keratosis sensitive to an exposure to light.
It is advisable that patients who were treated for Actinic Keratosis comes back for follow-up check-ups. Consulting your doctor at regular intervals after the treatment has been made will ensure that no new bumps are developing and that the eradicated bump is not developing into advanced stage yet again. Follow-ups are more significant in keeping track of cancer than just Actinic Keratosis. Also, patients are advised not to expose themselves to the sun’s harmful rays after treatment because that would signal recurrences.
There is no better way of preventing Actinic Keratosis from happening than watching over your sun exposure. Yes, the disease can be brought about by different other factors. But since sun exposure is the strongest trigger for the disease, it is best that you keep off by minimizing contact with the sun.
Whether you are fair or dark-skinned, nothing can spare you from Actinic Keratosis if you continue to render yourself to excessive sun exposure. Make use of sunscreen lotions and protective clothing if you are to go out in the sun. But even with them on, make sure that you limit your time out. Also, avoid tanning beds as well as other tan-accelerating products. Such produces UVA rays, which may be less dangerous than UVB but penetrates in the skin as well. And oh, sun-tanning products alone can heighten your risk for skin cancer.