Actinic keratosis is quite common skin condition in older people. When people grew older some rough, scaly spots are appear on their arms, hands, or face and these spots are known as actinic keratoses and condition is known as actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis is a small spot formed on the surface of the skin which is precancerous in nature. Normally it takes years together for the small red scaly patches to get transformed into cancer causing cells. Not all the spots turn into cancer cells and only 5% of the cells have chances to cause skin cancer. The red spot like growth on the skin is caused due to the exposure of sun and hence it is also known as solar keratosis. These spots are found on the face, neck and chest portion and it occurs only in fair complexioned people. Normally these soft growths are observed in fair people who have crossed 40 years and even more. Actinic keratosis is not seen in adolescents and children.
Actinic Keratosis Causes
The main cause of actinic keratosis is exposure to the sunlight for longer period. Older people are on the higher risk of developing this condition, if they
- Are Above 60 in age
- Have light-colored skin and blue eyes
- Have a problem of sunburn
- Have exposed to the sun frequently
- Have human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Living in a sunny climate
- Have red or blond hair
- Have a weak immune system due to any kind of organ transplant, chemotherapy, cancer or AIDS.
Symptoms Of Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratoses are appeared as scaly, thick, and crusty patches. These patches develop itching or burning sensation in the affected area. By the time, the lesions can remain the same, enlarge, disappear, or develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). The prominent symptoms of actinic keratosis are
- Toughening of the lesion
- Skin irritation and swelling
- Itchy and flaky skin
- Rapid enlargement
Actinic keratosis occurs when skin cells start to develop abnormally into discolored and scaly spots. These skin patches appear in tan, pink, brown or gray color in the body parts such as hands, arms , neck or face which are directly exposed to the sunlight.
The other types of actinic keratosis includes
- Cutaneous horns- it is a specialized form of actinic keratosis. In this condition, skin develops in a thick, hornlike manner.
- Actinic cheilitis- it is a scaling and roughness of the lower lip. It blur border of the lip and nearby skin.
- Seborrheic keratosis- includes age spots and warts
Generally, fair skinned people, who spend hours every day outside for work or at play, have a tendency to develop actinic keratosis. With the time, there skin becomes thinned, wrinkled, or mottled due to the exposure to the direct sunlight. Actinic keratosis is also developing risk for the people who has suppressed immune systems, or treated with Ultraviolet light for any kind of therapy.
Actinic keratosis is simply diagnosed by viewing at it. Secondary, the doctor may take skin biopsy of any suspicious lesions. Skin biopsy is the only way to detect SSC.
Actinic Keratosis Treatment
The best treatment for actinic keratosis is prevention. Minimum exposure to the sun is essential to avoid developing actinic keratosis. Mild forms of actinic keratosis disappear on its own and do not require any treatment. The treatment methods for the condition is simple and straightforward, such as
- Cryosurgery- Cryosurgery is the best form of treatment for removing AK in which liquid nitrogen is applied on the spots which removes them gradually.
- Surgery– to scrape away or burn off patches using electrocution
- 5-flurouracil (5-FU) – mostly found in creams. this medication helps in reducing the spots
- Ingenol mebutate (Picato) – it is a derivative of the sap of the plant of the Euphorbia genus and highly helpful in the treatment of small areas, but causes irritation.
- Imiquimod (Aldara) – it is an immune stimulator that is quite similar to 5-FU.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT) – this therapy used an agent aminolevulinic acid (Levulan or ALA) that destroys actinic keratosis.
- Diclofenec (Solaraze) – it is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in a cream form, but provides only little improvement. The cream provides less irritation and inflammation and must be applied for a longer period of two or more months.
- Superficial chemical peels– chemical peels that use trichloracetic acid (TCA) is also an effective method to reduce patches. This procedure should be implemented in doctor supervision.
Natural Home Remedies
Natural home remedies provide medication which is made naturally from flowers and natural herbs. These medications do not have any side effects and with the time gives permanent relief. Natural home remedies includes
- Apple cider vinegar
- Virgin coconut oil
- Tea tree oil
- Green tea
- Proper intake of water
- Eggplant extract
- Castor oil
- Changes in dietary habits
- Take healthy, balanced and nutritious diet
In case if you are infected with actinic keratosis, it is better not to go out in hot sun and expose the parts of the skin which makes it sensitive to sunlight. Always remember the following instructions:
- Always wear long sleeves dress and hats in sunlight
- Avoid going outside in a bright sunny day
- Always use sunscreen lotion and cream before going outside. A sunscreen with SPF 30 (sun protection factor) is best to use as it resist both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light.
- Regularly observe your skin and do consult with the doctor, if found any changes
- Always stay in a shade while outside
- Consult doctor, if observe any growth, skin rashes, bumps or lumps on the skin
Actinic keratoses are known as premalignant or precancerous condition that may develop into invasive skin cancer. However, chances of developing a person’s actinic keratosis into invasive Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are less than 1 percent. Squamous cell carcinoma has a potential to spread into other body area and are destructive. Detecting and curing actinic keratosis at early stage will support to prevent from invasive skin cancer. Generally, exposure to the sun for short period is not harmful and do not produce actinic keratosis or develop them into skin cancer.