- Rough skin patches
- Dry lips
in Fargo, North Dakota
Sunlight can be great for your health in small doses. However, it can be harmful if you spend a lot of your time around it. One sign that sunlight is harming your skin is a rough, itchy patch on your skin that develops over time. This can be a sign of actinic keratosis (AKs), sometimes called age spots or sun spots. Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a skin condition that affects millions of patients every year. It’s estimated that about 60% of people likely to get actinic keratosis will get at least one AK in their lifetime.
Actinic keratosis is a precancerous lesion that forms on the skin. They can be small bumps, or they can be rather large patches that appear on the face, neck, and hands. AKs range in color from being light to dark with different shades of red, pink, and brown. AKs can turn into a type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma, so it is pertinent to see a dermatologist if you have any AKs appear. Different types of AKs can be more aggressive than others, so you should see Dr. Ness for a correct diagnosis.
Actinic keratosis is caused by extensive contact with Ultraviolet Rays (UV). Most people get AKs if they spend a lot of time in the sunlight or if they use tanning beds. When UV rays hit the skin, the skin becomes damaged, leading to the unchecked growth of keratinocytes on the surface of the skin. This causes rough, scaly patches that are pigmented. Aside from sun exposure, your genetics can also be a factor in how likely you are to get AK’s. If you are naturally fair-skinned, blonde, have a weak immune system, or you burn easily in the sun, then you are more likely to develop AKs during your lifetime. Actinic Keratosis can be dangerous, since they are usually the first step in the development of skin cancer.
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If you suspect that you may have actinic keratosis, it’s important you see dermatologist. During a consultation, Dr. Ness can provide you with an accurate diagnosis for your AK. This can include closely examining your skin and even performing a biopsy on your skin to determine your concerns and treatment options. There are many different types of treatments that can be used for actinic keratosis. Treatment methods include:
- Cryotherapy: Freezes the visible AKs and destroys them.
- Chemical Peel: This destroys the top layers of skin so healthy new skin will replace it.
- Curettage: Removal of the visible AK with a small instrument. This uses electrosurgery to remove the damaged tissue.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT or BLU light): A solution is applied to the skin which makes it more sensitive to light. Then, the treated skin is exposed to light energy, which destroys the AKs. Over time after treatment, healthy skin appears.
- 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU or Efudex) Cream: This is a form of chemotherapy that is applied topically to the skin.
- Diclofenac Sodium Gel (Solaraze): This gel is designed to be used for a period of a couple months to treat AK’s.
- Imiquimod Cream: This cream will help to boost your immune system, helping to get rid of diseased skin cells.
- Ingenol Mebutate Gel (Picato): This is a mixture of chemotherapy that also helps to boost the immune system.
There are many forms of treatment that your dermatologist may recommend depending on the severity of the AKs. Some of these are in-office procedures, while others are medications that can be used at home. Some patients may need a combination of treatments and may need to repeat treatments as well, since AKs can continually appear throughout life.
After undergoing treatment for an AK, your dermatologist will create an aftercare plan to help reduce the possibility of AKs appearing again. You will want to regularly see Dr. Ness one to two times per year to monitor the treated skin. In between appointments, be sure to protect the skin by avoiding direct sunlight and tanning beds, wearing sunscreen every day, protecting your lips, and wearing long clothing. These steps will diminish the number of UV rays that hit the skin, diminishing the damage that is done. Dr. Ness can recommend the best sunscreens for you from our full line of in-house products.
When it comes to your skin, taking care of it is the best thing you can do. If you feel that you may be developing AKs and would benefit from treatment, then schedule an appointment with Dr. Rachel Ness. You can schedule a consultation at our Fargo office by calling or filling out our online form.