Actinic keratosis, also known as actinic keratosis, is a benign condition that causes red-brown, scaly, rough and hard skin lesions of varying sizes. It is mainly caused by excessive exposure to the sun, being common in areas of the body such as the face, lips, ears, arms, hands and scalp in bald people.
Although actinic keratosis can develop over several years, it usually doesn’t show symptoms until after age 40 and is usually not accompanied by any other signs. Most cases have a cure and are benign, and treatment is done to eliminate the lesions. As soon as symptoms appear, it is important to see a dermatologist as soon as possible, as there are cases in which actinic keratosis can turn into skin cancer.
Some measures can help prevent the lesions of actinic keratosis, such as using sunscreen with a protection factor above 30, avoiding exposure to the sun at peak times and doing skin self-examinations regularly.
Skin lesions caused by actinic keratosis may have the following characteristics:
- Irregular sizes;
- Brownish red coloration;
- Scaling, as if they were dry;
- Protruding over the skin and hardened;
In addition, the lesions can cause an itching or burning sensation and in some cases, they are painful and tender to the touch. In some people, actinic keratosis can become inflamed, bleed slightly, and look like a sore that won’t heal.
The main cause of the appearance of actinic keratosis is exposure to ultraviolet rays without protection and for long periods, so they usually appear in areas of the skin that are more exposed to the sun.
In addition to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the rays emitted by artificial tanning cameras can increase the risk of developing actinic keratosis and even some types of skin cancer, so this type of aesthetic procedure is prohibited by ANVISA.
Some people are at greater risk of developing actinic keratosis lesions such as people who are over 40 years old, who work most of the time exposed to the sun, who have fair skin and who have low immunity, due to some disease or treatment of chemotherapy.
How to confirm the diagnosis
The diagnosis of actinic keratosis is made by a dermatologist, who evaluates the characteristics of the lesions and, if necessary, requests a skin biopsy. Skin biopsy is a simple procedure performed with local anesthesia that consists of taking a small sample of the lesion that is then sent to the laboratory in order to analyze whether it has cancer cells. Learn more about how a skin biopsy is performed.
How is the treatment done?
Treatment for actinic keratosis should always be guided by a dermatologist and started soon after diagnosis, because if left untreated it can turn into skin cancer. The most commonly used types of treatment for actinic keratosis are:
1. Photodynamic therapy
Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that involves the application of laser directly to the actinic keratosis lesion. Before the photodynamic therapy session, it is necessary to apply an ointment or receive a medication in the vein to help the laser kill the altered cells.
The procedure lasts an average of 45 minutes and does not cause pain or discomfort, after which a bandage is placed to protect the site from infections and injuries.
2. Use of creams
In some cases, the dermatologist recommends the use of creams to treat actinic keratosis, such as:
- fluorouracil: it is the type of ointment most used for actinic keratosis, it helps to eliminate the cells that cause the lesion;
- Imiquimod: it is an ointment used to strengthen the immune system, helping to kill the injured cells;
- ingenol mebutate: it is a gel-type ointment that eliminates diseased cells in 2 or 3 days of use;
- Diclofenac with hyaluronic acid: it is also a gel ointment, but it is the least used for the treatment of lesions.
The dermatologist will recommend the type of cream according to the characteristics of the skin lesion, such as size, shape and location. The time of use and the number of times they must be applied may vary from person to person and, therefore, one should always respect the doctor’s instructions.
Cryotherapy consists of the application of liquid nitrogen with a device spray in order to freeze the diseased cells that cause the lesions of actinic keratosis. Several sessions are carried out to eliminate the lesions and the duration of this type of treatment depends on the doctor’s recommendation.
This type of treatment does not require anesthesia, as it does not cause pain, however after the sessions it is common for the skin region to become red and a little swollen.
4. Peeling chemical
O peeling Chemical treatment is a treatment that involves the application of an acid, called trichloroacetic acid, directly to the lesions of actinic keratosis. It is performed by a dermatologist in the office, does not cause pain, but sometimes causes a burning sensation.
This type of treatment serves to kill the altered cells present in the lesions and after the peeling chemical, it is always necessary to use sunscreen due to the risk of burning in the place applied the acid.
What to do to prevent
The best way to prevent actinic keratosis is to use sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 30. However, other measures can help reduce the risk of developing actinic keratosis, such as avoiding sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm. in the afternoon, wear hats to protect your face from ultraviolet rays and avoid artificial tanning.
In addition, it is important to perform skin self-examinations frequently and to see a dermatologist regularly, especially for people with fair skin or a family history of skin cancer.
Always consult a doctor.
Verified by RJ985 – Brazilian natural medicine CMIO.org