Actinic Keratosis- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment



An actinic keratosis is a scaly or crusty bump that forms on the skin surface. Actinic keratoses generally measure in size between 2 to 6 millimeters in diameter (between the size of a pencil point to that of an eraser). Actinic keratoses (AKs) are dry, scaly, rough-textured patches that form on the outermost layer of the skin after years of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, such as sunlight. It is also known as a solar keratosis grows slowly and usually causes no signs or symptoms other than patches or small spots on the skin. Anyone who develops AKs has extensive sun-damaged skin. This makes one more susceptible to other forms of skin cancer, including melanoma.


AKs affect more than ten million Americans. Because AKs take years to develop, their incidence increases as people age. The thinning of the ozone layer may be allowing more ultraviolet rays reach the earth.  Actinic keratosis occurs most commonly in fair skin, especially in the elderly and in young individuals with light complexions. So people who have fair skin, blonde or red hair, blue, green, or gray eyes are at the greatest risk. Because their skin has less protective pigment, they are the most susceptible to sunburn. Even those who are darker-skinned can develop keratosis if they heavily expose themselves to the sun without protection. The growths begin as flat, scaly areas that later develop a hard wart-like surface.

Individuals who are immunosuppressed as a result of cancer chemotherapy, AIDS, or organ transplantation, are also at higher risk.


There are many Symptoms of the Acrochordons. Some of the common symptoms of acrochordons are:

  • Skin growth.
  • Located on the neck, armpits, trunk, body folds, or other areas
  • Usually skin-colored, occasionally darker.
  • Usually very small, but sometimes half an inch long.
  • May have a narrow stalk.
  • Located on the neck, armpits, trunk, body folds, or other areas.

They do not cause pain in most cases but can become irritated if rubbed hard or snagged on something. If acrochordons is torn there can be some heavy bleeding depending on the area of the body where it is located.


Because actinic keratoses represent precancerous changes, you should have them examined promptly and follow the health care provider’s advice for treatment. Treatment of a solar keratosis requires removal of the defective skin cells. New skin then forms from deeper cells which have escaped sun damage.An extremely cold substance, such as liquid nitrogen, is applied to skin lesions. The substance freezes the surface skin, causing blistering or peeling. As your skin heals, the lesions slough off, allowing new skin to appear.

Topical Chemotherapy with 5-fluorouracil also causes the AKs to “fall off” after becoming inflammed and reddened. New but tender skin will grow to replace the old lesion.

Talk to your doctor about your treatment options. The procedures have various advantages and disadvantages, including side effects, risk of scarring, and the number of treatment sessions required. Actinic keratosis is usually very responsive to treatment. Afterward you’ll likely have regular follow-up visits to check for new patches or lesions.


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