How Do I Know If I Have Actinic Keratosis?
Though a person shouldn’t self-diagnose, there are some signs that actinic keratosis is developing. But first, it’s necessary to know what actinic keratosis is and what causes it.
What Is Actinic Keratosis?
An actinic keratosis is a patch of rough, scaly skin that appears wherever the skin has had too much exposure to ultraviolet rays. Dermatologists consider them precancerous, and if they are left untreated they sometimes turn into a type of malignancy called squamous cell skin cancer. People with a lot of actinic keratoses are especially at risk for developing this kind of cancer.
Some forms of actinic keratoses present as hornlike growths. These growths are at even higher risk of turning into skin cancer.
Sometimes the patch of affected skin can’t be seen but can be felt. It can also itch or burn or hurt when it’s rubbed. Sometimes, the actinic keratosis flakes off and leaves an area of skin that feels smooth and normal. But then, it comes back after a few days, especially after the person’s been out in the sun. Whether the rough patch disappears or not, its existence means that the top layers of the patient’s skin are damaged.
Actinic keratoses can also appear on the lips as whitish patches. When it is found on the lips, it is known as actinic cheilitis. People who have rough areas on their lips or lips that always feel dry should see a dermatologist.
Treating Actinic Keratosis
The way to diagnose actinic keratosis is for the dermatologist to examine the rough patch and take a skin biopsy. If actinic keratosis is diagnosed, there are procedures that we at Calabasas Dermatology Center do in the office and medications that we prescribe for our patients.
In-office treatments include:
The rough patch is removed with a curette. The area is then cauterized with electrosurgery to remove any abnormal skin. A healthy patch of skin eventually grows in its place.
Cryotherapy kills the actinic keratosis by freezing it. The skin blisters, then the blister falls off.
The patch is painted with a strong chemical that destroys the abnormal cells.
This treatment uses the heat of a laser to destroy the abnormal cells.
We also prescribe topical treatments that stimulate the body to heal the damaged skin and/or strengthen the immune system to better combat the abnormal skin cells.
A person who suspects they might have an actinic keratosis should get in touch with us today at Calabasas Dermatology Center for a consultation.