About actinic keratosis (AK)
AK is a common, chronic condition that affects millions of people
AK is a skin condition marked by scaly, rough patches of skin. These patches appear over time, primarily caused by too much sun exposure. If you notice "sun spots" on your skin, and spend lots of time in the sun, visit your dermatologist to determine if you have AK.
If you're diagnosed with AK, you’re in the company of millions of other patients. AK is one of the most common skin disorders in people with fair skin. It is also chronic and recurring—if patches of rough skin begin to appear now, there’s a chance that more patches will appear in the future. This is why it is important to treat lesions as they arise. Once diagnosed by a healthcare professional, AK can be treated using a variety of methods.
AK lesions can appear anywhere on skin that has been exposed to the sun, but they’re usually found on the face, lips, ears, hands, arms, scalp, neck, and chest. They often feel different from normal skin, with a scaly or flaky texture. Lesions can also itch, burn, or irritate skin. Lesions themselves appear differently depending on the patient—common types are shown below.
AK can appear in a variety of ways
Understanding the AK field
If there are multiple AK lesions in an area, that’s called the field. Picato® is a topical treatment that can cover an AK field, up to a continuous area of about 2x2 inches or 25 cm2. Your dermatologist will be able to determine if you have AK and discuss your treatment options.
Risk factors for AK
While it’s important to discuss any concerns with a dermatologist, there are several factors that may increase the risk for developing AK. This condition usually affects people with:
Additionally, since AK is caused by sun exposure over a long period of time, it's most likely to be found in people who are 40 and older. However, younger people may also be affected.
Since AK is a chronic condition that often returns, it’s important to treat patches as they appear.
One method of treating AK is medication, prescription products that are applied to areas of skin affected by AK. Another is photodynamic therapy, in which a healthcare professional applies a chemical solution to patches of skin that make your skin sensitive to light. The skin is then exposed to light to destroy damaged skin cells. Surgery is also an option, such as freezing AKs (cryotherapy) or scraping them off (curettage).
Every therapy will have its advantages and tradeoffs, so be sure to talk with your dermatologist about which method is best for you.
Think you’re at risk?
Ask your dermatologist about AK.Find a list of dermatologists in your area.