Understanding Actinic Keratosis: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

HK Vitals

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Actinic keratosis (AK) is the condition that makes the skin rough, scaly, and patchy, which, when left untreated, can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Preventing sun damage is the most effective strategy to avoid AK. For a diagnosis and course of treatment, it is advisable to contact your healthcare professional if you discover any new red or rough pimples on your skin. However, identifying and managing the condition requires knowledge and understanding. 

In this blog, we will be providing all the essential details that will help you understand all about actinic keratosis.

What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis presents cutaneous premalignant lesions that have the potential to develop into squamous cell carcinoma. Those with a history of cumulative sun exposure often develop these lesions on sun-exposed skin areas. The lesions are hence frequently referred to as pre-cancer skin conditions. They do not pose an immediate hazard to life; however, they may turn cancerous. Early diagnosis and quick treatment help prevent these lesions from becoming cancerous.

 What are the Most Common Actinic Keratosis Symptoms?

There may be variations in the common symptoms of actinic keratosis. However, some of the most prominent symptoms are:

  • Rough, dry, or scaly skin patches. These patches often have diameters of less than one inch. 
  • There is a prominently visible top layer bump or patch on the skin 
  • A wart-like surface, which is very rough
  • Color variations or changes in skin texture where it turns red or brown.
  • Stinging and itching, which can lead to crusting
  • The skin around the neck, hands, and forearms, which remains exposed to the sun, may give rise to new bumps or patches.

Why Does Actinic Keratosis Occur?

Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is one of the most common actinic keratosis causes. UV light is emitted by the sun and indoor tanning devices like tanning beds. And, increased exposure to them can harm keratinocytes, the cells that make up your skin’s outer layer, which may require dermatological treatments.

It may take up to three months for actinic keratosis to go away after therapy is finished. You should make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup once or twice a year after AK goes away. You might also need to see your dermatologist four to six times a year if you have a compromised immune system, which raises your risk for AK.

How is the Diagnosis of Actinic Keratosis Done?

By closely inspecting your skin and utilizing magnification, your primary care physician, a dermatologist (a specialist in skin diseases), or another healthcare professional may diagnose actinic keratosis. Your healthcare professional might suggest a skin biopsy if unsure or the skin appears abnormal. With this quick, minimally invasive treatment, a precise diagnosis can be made by looking at your skin cells under a microscope.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic keratosis is typically removed due to their discomfort or unsightliness, as well as the possibility of skin cancer developing in them. The damaged skin cells must be removed in order to treat actinic keratosis. And, aggressive treatment is necessary for actinic keratosis that is painful, thickened, ulcerated, or expanding. Following are some of the common options for actinic keratosis treatment:

  • Cryotherapy

The skin growth of Actinic keratosis can be frozen with liquid nitrogen to eliminate them. The drug induces a blistering or peeling effect when applied topically to the afflicted skin, as directed by your healthcare provider. The injured skin cells peel off as your skin heals, revealing new skin.

  • Curettage 

During this process, the medical professional will use a tool known as a curet to remove any damaged cells. Electrosurgery, which involves using electric current to cut and destroy the damaged tissues using a pencil-shaped tool, may also be performed after curettage, in this treatment. 

  • Laser Therapy

Actinic keratosis is being treated with this method more frequently. Your physician will remove the patch with an ablative laser device so that fresh skin can grow in its place. 

  • Photodynamic Therapy

Your doctor may treat the damaged area of your skin with a light-sensitive chemical solution before subjecting it to a particular kind of light that will eradicate actinic keratosis. During treatment, side effects could include a burning sensation in the skin, swelling, and inflammation.


Actinic keratosis is a serious skin condition that must be treated immediately. Most AK cases are resolved with topical or surgical intervention. By shielding your skin from the sun and other UV radiation, you can reduce your chance of developing actinic keratosis. Consult your healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment if you believe you have AK. Your risk of developing skin cancer decreases with early intervention for actinic keratosis.

HK Vitals


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