Actinic keratosis: Signs and symptoms
Signs of actinic keratosis
The following photographs show signs of actinic keratoses (AKs).
If you see any of these signs on your own skin, you should see a dermatologist. Left untreated, AKs may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. People who have AKs also have a higher risk of getting other types of skin cancer. When found early, most skin cancers can be cured.
Symptoms of actinic keratoses
Most people who get AKs do not have any symptoms. They only notice changes to their skin. Symptoms can occur. A few symptoms to watch for are:
- Rough-feeling patch on skin that cannot be seen.
- Rough patch or growth that feels painful when rubbed.
- Itching or burning.
- Lips feel constantly dry.
Actinic keratosis: Now you see it, now you don’t
An AK can come and go. An AK can appear on the skin, remain for months, and then flake off and disappear. The skin can suddenly feel smooth. Many AKs re-appear in a few days to a few weeks. They often re-appear when the person goes outdoors without sun protection.
Even if an AK does not re-appear, you should see your dermatologist. AKs form when the top layer of skin is badly damaged. You can get more AKs. If the damage grows deeper, skin cancer can develop.
Photographs 1, 2, 5, 7, and 9 used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
*Photograph used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol.1997;36:236-8.
**Photograph used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol.1998;39:S74-8.
*** Photographs used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol 2000;42:S8-10.
Bhatia ND. “Medical Management of Actinic Keratoses.” Focus session presented at the 2011 American Academy of Dermatology Summer Academy Meeting: New York City. Aug 2011.
Moy RL. “Clinical presentation of actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinoma.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2000 Jan; 42:S8-10.
Odom R. “Managing actinic keratoses with retinoids.” J Am Acad Dermatol 1998 Aug;39:S74-8.
Sander CA, Pfeiffer C, Kligman AM et al. “Chemotherapy for disseminated actinic keratoses with 5-fluorouracil and isotretinoin.” J Am Acad Dermatol 1997 Feb;36:236-8.