Actinic keratosis, or solar keratosis, is a skin condition that develops with age and is primarily caused by long term sun exposure. The condition presents with hard, dry, scaly spots of skin, usually on the scalp, face, back of the hands and forearms.
Normally they don’t pose a serious problem but it is important to get them checked as there is a chance they might turn into skin cancer at some point.
You should see your GP if a patch on your skin begins to grow and becomes large very quickly, starts hurting or bleeds. You should also seek your GP’s advice if you have had actinic keratosis before and think it may be a new formation.
Once your consultant dermatologist has made the diagnosis, there are a variety of creams you may be prescribed which can be effective in milder cases.
Thicker keratosis may be frozen off using a technique known as cryotherapy, which involves the use of liquid nitrogen.
If the keratosis has become extremely thickened and raised or if there is a suspicion that it may be turning cancerous surgery may be appropriate. The procedure may involve a biopsy to sample. The keratosis is removed with a surgical curette or cutting out with a scalpel.
Following recovery, you are likely to be left with some scarring or discoloured skin, depending on the severity of the affected area.