Actinic Keratoses (AKs)

Actinic Keratoses (AKs)

Actinic Keratoses (AKs) are rough, scaly patches commonly found on sun-exposed skin. AKs are considered precancerous as they may progress to skin cancers.

An Actinic keratosis is formed when the skin is damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or indoor tanning.  Excessive exposure to the skin causes damage to the skin cell’s DNA. This leads to abnormal growth of the skin in the form of an Actinic keratosis. 

Most people with Actinic keratoses will continue to get new spots through the remainder of their life. This is due to cumulative exposure to the ultraviolet rays over time. Actinic keratoses are considered precancerous and therefore should be treated. If left untreated, these spots may evolve into squamous cell carcinoma. 

There are many treatments for Actinic keratoses. These treatments aim to destroy the damaged skin. Treatments for Actinic keratoses include:

    • Cryotherapy

    • This involves the use of liquid nitrogen to target and destroy visible actinic keratoses by freezing them.

 

    • Chemical peels

    • The use of medium depth chemical peels in a viable treatment for actinic keratosis. Chemical peels suitable enough to treat actinic keratoses are performed by a medical professional.  These peels destroys the top layers of skin where the damages skin cell are found.

 

    • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

    • A solution is applied to make the skin more sensitive to light. The skin is then exposed to a blue or red light which activates the solution and destroys actinic keratoses.

 

Prescription medications

There are several medications that can be prescribed to treat actinic keratoses.  Commonly used medications include:  5-fluorouracil (5-FU), Diclofenac gel,  Imiquimod cream and Ingenol gel.

    • These creams work by boosting the body’s immune system to target the damaged skin cells. These treatments are considered field therapies as they are designed to treat entire areas that have actinic keratoses rather than individual actinic keratoses.

 

 

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