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Actinic Keratosis Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is it ?

Actinic keratosis is also called solar keratosis. This disease corresponds to a set of skin damage caused by excessive exposure to UV rays of the sun or artificial. Most patients do not develop a single keratosis but several keratoses.

The development of actinic keratoses requires strict dermatological monitoring. This pathology is considered to be pro-carcinogenic, which often leads to the development of skin cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma.

An early and regular visit to the dermatologist can verify the extent of actinic keratosis and prevent the development of carcinoma. In the case where the cancer cells are already in development, it can be treated with effective treatments.

The development of actinic keratoses results in the appearance of squamous: fragments of the skin that disappear. This skin damage can be pinkish, red or brown and can vary in size (from a few millimeters to a few centimeters).


The parts of the body most often exposed to the sun are usually those that are most often damaged:
– the face, especially the nose and forehead;
– the forearms and the back of the hands;
– ears ;
– the scalp in bald persons;
– legs.

Apparent tasks are generally safe in themselves and can sometimes be benign. Nevertheless, in some cases they can be painful, unsightly and itchy.
In view of this type of clinical manifestations, it is recommended to consult as soon as possible the general practitioner or a dermatologist to take care of the disease as soon as possible and thus avoid any development of cancer.

Actinic keratosis is more important for people with fair skin, blue eyes, redheads, people with many freckles, and people who are sensitive to sunburn. As well as people living and working in countries or sunny places.
In addition, male predominance has been demonstrated in this condition.

Actinic keratosis usually develops several years after prolonged exposure to the sun and particularly affects subjects over the age of 40 years.

Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis

When observing atypical symptoms of actinic keratosis, a consultation with the general practitioner or the dermatologist must be effective at the earliest to avoid any risk of developing cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma.

Many people developing the disease, have no symptoms. Only skin changes (spots, redness, burns, etc.) can be seen. In cases of symptomatic development, these clinical manifestations include:
– a sensation of roughness on the surface of the skin;
– the development of rough tasks;
– itching and burning of the skin;
– drying of the lips.


Actinic keratosis is characterized by symptomatic appearances and disappearances. Symptoms can appear for several months, then subside or even disappear. After the rough appearance of the skin, characteristic of keratosis, it can become smooth again in a few days or weeks. In addition, clinical manifestations usually reappear after re-exposure to the sun.

Even if the symptoms do not reappear, it is necessary to consult a dermatologist. Indeed, the development of squamous is effective when the upper layer of the skin is largely damaged. In this sense, the development of skin cancers may appear, even if the clinical manifestations do not return.

The origins of the disease

The origin of actinic keratosis is the frequent and prolonged exposure to UV rays coming from the sun or artificial (during a tanning under UV).

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are therefore the cause of the development of this pathology. Most people who are repeatedly and intensively exposed to the sun have clinical manifestations associated with actinic keratosis.

When these UV rays reach the surface of the skin, they can cause more or less damage to the epidermis (upper layer of the skin). In young people, the body has the faculty to repair some of this damage. However, over time, this damage accumulates and increases and the body is no longer able to repair it. It then develops actinic keratoses or even skin cancer.

Risk factors for Actinic Keratosis

The risk factors for developing the disease concern people:
– with fair skin;
– blondes or redheads;
– with blue, green or azure eyes;
– sensitive to sunburn;
– over the age of 40;
– whose immune system is weakened;
– living and / or working in hot, sunny places;
– working with substances containing Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), found in coal or in tar. This category of people includes roofers.

Prevention and treatment of Actinic Keratosis

The diagnosis of the disease is first of all differential and is made by the observation of squamous in the skin by the general practitioner or by the dermatologist.

In some cases, this first diagnosis must be confirmed by taking a sample of the skin and examining it under a microscope.

A visit to the dermatologist is necessary if:
– the general practitioner is not sure of the diagnosis;
– the general practitioner thinks that one or more of the tasks may cause cancer;
– the tasks are particularly severe and extensive;
– the subject is immunosuppressed;
– the symptoms do not subside following a treatment.

Treatment of the disease aims to destroy actinic keratoses. Some patients therefore receive more than just one treatment. These therapeutic means include:
– cryotherapy: destruction of squamous by cold;
– a chemical peeling of the squamous;
– a curettage, to clean the surface of the skin by scraping;
– dynamic photo therapy: thanks to a blue light or a laser of clear brightness, light activates a solution to destroy keratoses;
– Laser re-surfacing, which is defined by a peel of the skin thanks to the action of a laser.

Drugs may also be prescribed in the treatment of the disease, these are:
– a cream containing 5-fluorouracil;
– a diclofenac sodium gel;
– an imiquimod cream;
an ingenol mebutate gel.

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