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Actinic Keratosis: A Comprehensive Guide

young girl in sun hat

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis (AK), also known as solar keratosis, is a skin condition characterised by rough, scaly patches. You should be aware of this condition as it’s a type of precancer, which means it could potentially develop into skin cancer if left untreated.

Understanding Actinic Keratosis

AK is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds. This exposure damages the outer layer of skin cells, leading to the formation of these rough patches.

Who’s at Risk?

While anyone can develop AK, certain factors increase the risk:

  • Frequent sun exposure without protection.
  • Having blond or red hair.
  • Possessing blue or green eyes.
  • Having a fair or light complexion.
  • A history of multiple or severe sunburns.
  • A weakened immune system due to illness or treatments like immunotherapy.

Identifying Actinic Keratosis

The initial signs of AK are typically rough, raised bumps on the skin. These can be grey, pink, red, or even the same colour as your skin. Other symptoms might include:

  • Horn-like growths.
  • Pain or tenderness in the affected area.
  • A sensation of burning, stinging, or itching.
  • Dry or scaly lips.


A doctor can often diagnose AK by examining the skin. In uncertain cases, a skin biopsy might be recommended.

Treatment Options

There are several treatments available for AK, depending on its severity and the number of patches:

  • Chemical Peels: These are treatments that remove the top layer of skin, allowing a new, healthy layer to emerge.
  • Cryotherapy: This involves freezing the AK patches, causing them to blister and peel off.
  • Excision: The AK patches are scraped away or surgically removed.
  • Photodynamic Therapy: This is a combination of creams and light therapy used to destroy precancerous skin cells.
  • Laser therapy: We have the excellent Erbium laser here at The Doctors Laser Clinic for the effective treatment of AK (Read more on our lumps, bumps, and blemishes page)

For those with multiple patches, healthcare providers might prescribe medicated creams for at-home treatment.


The best defence against AK is prevention. This includes:

  • Regular application of sunscreen.
  • Avoiding peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
  • Staying away from tanning salons and tanning beds.
  • Wearing protective clothing.

The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment of Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis is a condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Early detection and treatment are most important to prevent its progression to skin cancer. Regular check-ups and sun protection are the best ways to keep your skin healthy and AK-free.

The Doctors Laser Clinic’s advice is to always consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you might have Actinic Keratosis or any other skin condition. We are be happy to advise you here at the clinic if you need us.



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