What does actinic keratosis usually look like?

Scaly red papules. Actinic keratosis is a premalignant lesion that over time can evolve into squamous or basal cell carcinomas. They are usually small persistent crusty or scaly pink-red bumps. These are typically treated with liquid nitrogen destruction or topical creams such as Efudex or aldara (imiquimod).
Red and scaly. Actinic keratoses can appear red, scaly, slightly brown, or very crusty. Some may occasionally bleed, but this is usually a sign that it has progressed to a cancerous lesion.

Related Questions

What is actinic keratosis?

Pre-cancer. Actinic keratosis is a pre-cancerous skin lesion. It's a scaly area that feels sharp, like sandpaper or a glass shard, when you rub your finger over it. If untreated, it can become a squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. It is usually from sun damage. To treat it, liquid nitrogen or a cream called effudex is applied. Avoid sun exposure to avoid this!

What are symptoms of actinic keratosis?

Actinic Keraotsis. Actinic keratoses arise in chronically sun exposed sites, such as the backs of the hands, forearms and face. They usually present as rough scaly or crusty slightly red bumps on the skin. Sometimes, these lesions can be felt more than they can be seen. A rough patch on a sun exposed area may all that you notice.

How can I make actinic keratosis go away?

Dermatologist appt. Unfortunately there is no studied over the counter treatment for actinic keratosis (ak). Since ak is a form of precancer, it is important to have it treated before it progresses. There are available treatments through a dermatologist that are effective (some topical, some freezing technique).

How is actinic keratosis usually diagnosed?

Clinical exam. Actinic keratoses are early precancerous lesions caused primarily by sun exposure over time. They are usually diagnosed by your dermatologist on clinical exam. In some cases a more advanced lesion may be biopsied to make sure it has not progressed to skin cancer.
Texture. Actinic keratoses, which are pre-malignant skin lesions caused by exposure to ultraviolet light (sun or tanning bed), have a characteristic "scratchy, " sharp texture which is hard to confuse with anything else. Most "skin doctors" can identify these by how they look and feel. They are so common in sunny parts of the world that most doctors are familiar with them. No special test is needed.

Who is at generally risk for actinic keratosis?

H/o sunburns. Actinic keratoses are precancerous lesions caused by excessive sun exposure. The more sunburns you've had, the more risk of developing ak's.
Fair, sun exposed. Anyone who is exposed to ultraviolet light (sun or tanning bed or welding torch) can get these pre-malignant spots, but they are more common in fair-completed people.

Do all cases of actinic keratosis turn into scc?

No. In fact, relatively few of them do so. However, if you have been diagnosed with an ak, it is best to make sure you follow the recommended schedule of appointments with the doctor following your skin health. If you notice ulceration, bleeding, itching, or sudden spreading of an ak, get it checked out asap.

Does all cases of actinic keratosis need freezing?

Freeze, 5FU, Aldara (imiquimod) Actinic keratosis (ak) is a premalignant condition caused chiefly by sun exposure. If left untreated, ak can progress to squamous cell cancer of the skin. Treatments of ak include freezing using liquid nitrogen; 5-fu chemo cream; immune modifier cream aldara (imiquimod)...

How can I reduce the appearance and the feel of actinic keratosis?

None. Unfortunately there is no studied over the counter treatment for actinic keratosis (ak). Since ak is a form of precancer, it is important to have it treated before it progresses. There are available treatments through a dermatologist that are effective (some topical, some freezing technique).

Is laser actinic keratosis removal possible?

Yes. Actinic keratoses are pre-cancerous skin lesions caused by sun exposure. Various treatments can be used, including liquid nitrogen (freezing), topical creams (imiquimod, fluoruracil, others), curettage (scraping), and medium-depth chemical peels. Laser treatments include co2 laser ablation and photodynamic therapy (laser treatment after application of a medication to the skin).