What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic Keratosis (AK), also known as Solar Keratosis, is known as sun damage. AK’s form when the skin is badly damaged from UV rays from the sun, or indoor sun tanning. Over time, UV rays can cause damage to our skin and in some cases, when the damage accumulates, our bodies are less able to repair itself. AK’s are often dry and scaly, pink, red or sometimes a white or brown color. AK’s occur mainly on the back of your hands, scalp, and face. AK’s can also be painful once the area is irritated or rubbed.

Actinic Keratosis most commonly occurs in people with fair skin, ages 40+. Those who live in places with strong sunlight, particularly places close to the equator, or people who have consistently used sun tanning beds, can see AK’s appear earlier than 40 years of age. People with weakened immune systems due to a medical condition or medications also have a higher risk of contracting this skin condition. More than 58 million Americans have one or more cases of Actinic Keratosis.

Apotheco - Actinic Keratosis skin cancer

How can it be treated?

There are many ways to treat AK’s. Left untreated, AKs may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma and the more AK’s you have, the higher your risk of skin cancer becomes. It is important to get your skin checked if you notice any of the symptoms stated earlier. Here are some other common procedures to help treat Actinic Keratosis:


  • Topical Medications – There are a few different gels and creams your doctor can prescribe which act as a chemotherapy to reduce redness and crusting of Actinic Keratosis. These topical medications need to be used over the course of a few weeks or even sometimes a few days. One of the most common meds is just a 2-3 days course of therapy. It is also very important to protect your skin from the sun during these treatments.
  • Cryotherapy – This is the most common treatment of Actinic Keratosis. Cryotherapy works by freezing off the visible AK’s on the skin. The treated skin often blisters and peels off within a few days or weeks.
  • Medical Chemical Peel – This strong chemical peel can only be done by your doctor and not at a salon or spa. This peel will destroy the top layers of the skin and new, healthier skin will replace it.

AK’s usually form in pairs and it is unlikely that you will have only one AK form on your skin.

AK’s can also appear, disappear, and then reappear again on your skin. When an AK disappears, the skin can become smooth again however, the AK can reappear within a couple of days or weeks. This is why it is important to get your skin checked by a Dermatologist even if an AK has disappeared.

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