If you have dry, scaly patches or unusual “sandpapery” spots on your skin, these may be actinic keratoses, or precancerous growths that are common among adults with a history of excessive sun exposure. At Dermatology + Plastic Surgery, led by board-certified dermatologist Anita Saluja, MD and double board-certified plastic surgeon Rebecca Novo, MD, residents of Melbourne, Indialantic, Viera, Brevard County, the beaches, and nearby communities in Central Florida can obtain early treatment for actinic keratosis before it becomes something worse.
Actinic keratoses (AKs for short), or solar keratoses, develop after repeated exposure to the sun. Your skin “remembers” all the sun damage it has had since you were a child including sunbathing, playtime, yard work, vacations, sporting activities, and sunlight that hit your skin going to and from your normal daily activities. AKs are scaly or crusty spots on the skin that may be tan, pink, or red. They feel rough and are often easier felt than seen. They may itch or be prickly or feel tender. Vulnerable areas are the face, lips, ears, and the back of the neck or hands.
Actinic keratosis can progress into squamous cell carcinoma, so it is important to treat actinic keratosis before it progresses.
The condition develops over many years of sun exposure, so it is usually most often found in adults over the age of 40. People who are exposed to excessive amounts of sunlight due to lifestyle or geographical location are at greatest risk. The incidence is higher in regions closer to the equator and slightly higher among men who tend to use less sun protection and spend more time in the sun practicing sports or performing jobs that require being outdoors. People of all ethnic groups can get actinic keratosis, but it is most common in fair-skinned people with light eyes.
Actinic keratosis may be removed much like skin cancer tumors using various techniques, including cryosurgery, excision, curettage and electrodesiccation, photodynamic therapy (PDT), or laser treatments.
Cryosurgery or freezing is the most common method of treatment. This is only uncomfortable for a few minutes and causes the skin to separate between normal skin and the actinic keratosis. The AK will peel off when the skin underneath is healed. This can take 10-14 days.
Topical prescription medication is also an option especially if there are extensive AKs. Ingredients include fluorouracil, imiquimod, diclofenac, and ingenol. The skin may become red and raw.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) includes the use of Levulan, a solution that incubates on the skin, and then, a blue light source is used to activite it, removing AKs over a few weeks.
There are also in-office laser treatments we do to treat AKs, as well as cosmetic concerns. Many of our patients return to the office annually for a laser skin peel.
Call the office if any lesions (pink dry or scaly areas or bumps) persist after the skin has healed from the medication reaction. Healing usually takes 2-3 weeks.
Seborrheic keratoses (SKs) are benign lesions that are not precancerous or cancerous. They tend to start appearing in adulthood and usually increase in number over time. SKs are not related to sun exposure. They tend to run in families.
SKs are usually slightly raised, light to tan to dark brown bumps. They are usually rough, scaly, crusty, or warty in appearance. They can increase in size or number. SKs tend to be “stuck on” the skin and many people scratch them off accidentally and harmlessly.
SKs cannot be prevented from appearing. They do not need to be treated. They are often treated due to symptoms or due to cosmetic appearance. Treatment is minimally invasive and comfortable. SKs are frozen off with liquid nitrogen, shaved off with a blade, desiccated off with an electric tip, or scraped off with a curette.
Your health insurance may cover part or all of the cost for treatment of actinic keratosis. To help patients manage costs not covered by health insurance, our office provides various payment options.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially where your health is concerned. If you have unusual spots that may be actinic keratosis, visit the team of specialists at Dermatology + Plastic Surgery. Led by board-certified dermatologist Anita Saluja, MD and double board-certified plastic surgeon Rebecca Novo, MD, Dermatology + Plastic Surgery offers actinic keratosis diagnosis and cancer screening to the residents of Melbourne, Indialantic, Viera, Brevard County, the beaches, and nearby communities in Central Florida. Contact our office today to learn more about early treatment options for actinic keratosis and skin cancer screening.
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My initial procedure done was a MOH’s repair on my chin and chest by Dr. Renee Gasgarth. She is an exceptional surgeon and human being. She, and nurses Kim and Julie, made me feel comfortable in a very uncomfortable situation. The doctor spoke to me with kindness and a friendly manner as did the nurses. She explained the process to me thoroughly leaving me as relaxed as possible. The follow-up appointments have been equally exceptional. And the front office people are very sweet and informative as well. Thanks Dr. Gasgarth!
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