Actinic Keratosis - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Actinic keratoses are dry, scaly, rough-textured patches or bump or lesions forms on the outermost layer of the skin because Of large time exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, such as sunlight. These lesions typically range in color from skin-toned to reddish brown and in size from as small as a pinhead to an inch across. The disease mostly affects skin of face, lips, ears, back of your hands, forearms, scalp and neck.Occasionally,growth of lesions may resemble an animal horn and is called a "cutaneous horn."
Mostly fair-skinned people who frequently exposed to the sun are more prone to this disease as their pigment isn't very protective.The disease may be the first step in the development of skin cancer and is generally considered as precancerous condition of the skin.The presence of this disease strongly indicates that any kind of cancer can develop.The actinic keratosis, is generally known by several names such as sun spot, senile warts solar keratoses etc.
Some of the important symptoms of actinic keratosis are as:-
- Scaly patches vary from flat to slightly raised skin on the top layer of your skin .
- Lesions ranging in color from pink to red to brown, or flesh-colored
- Skin lesion may be rough and dry textured.
- There may be chances of Itching, burning, or stinging.
- Patches generally range in size from 1 to 3 mm or may get larger.
- Red and irritated skin may be present around the patches.
- There is the possibility of presence of several patches close together.
- Skin growth or the bumps may get harden and become gritty.
The possible causes of actinic keratosis may includes:-
- Genetics and cumulative sun exposure are the main cause of the disease. Years of sun exposure cause skin cells to change in size, shape, and the way they are organized resulting in the disease.
- The disease may be caused by extensive exposure to x-rays.
- Extensive exposure to specific industrial chemicals such as arsenic may also cause actinic keratosis .
- Ionizing radiation such as radiotherapy may also increase of skin cancers.
- A person with a weak immune system is more prone to the disease.
- Mostly seen in pale-skinned, fair-haired, light-eyed people due to their sensitivity to the sunlight.
The treatment vary patient to patient. The treatment is provided after considering the following factors:
- The location,type and extent of the lesions.
- Success of previous treatment.
- Experience and training of the physician.
- Changes in a lesion that may indicate malignancy.
- Patient preference.
After considering the above factors the treatment can be done which involve following courses and medication:
- Surgical removal :the lesions can be removed by surgery.
- Electrodessication :heat generated by an electric current can also be used to cure actinic keratosis.
- Photo dynamic therapy:In this medicines are applied topically followed by a special light.
- Lasers, chemical peels,chemotherapy creams and dermabrasion.
- Liquid nitrogen (Cryosurgery): Treatment is done by freezing the affected tissue with liquid nitrogen with a special spray device or with cotton piece.
- Patient administered cream that triggers an immune response.
- Topical medications are also effective in completely eradicating actinic keratosis.
- 5-Flurouracil (5-FU) cream may be a useful option for the treatment of the disease.