What is Actinic Keratosis?
Actinic keratosis (AK) is a scaly, rough, crusty lesion that forms on the skin in areas exposed to the sun. It most often appears on the lips, face, scalp, ears, shoulders, and other areas frequently exposed. Typically, the areas of skin affected will have more than one lesion, so the plural of this condition is known as actinic keratoses. These lesions develop slowly over time and may disappear and reappear, and be itchy, uncomfortable, and become inflamed. During a thorough skin assessment, our board-certified dermatologists at Snyder Dermatology will analyze the lesion, sometimes utilizing dermoscopy. Even though this skin condition is considered precancerous, it can be a cause for concern if not treated and could develop into a skin cancer. Removal of the lesion will most likely be recommended and discussed during the examination.
"I went in for a consultation for a scar I had from a procedure done last year. First off, the office is gorgeous with beautiful art pieces adorning the walls and a wonderful group of staff members that greet you with a warm welcome. I met with Dr. Foley who was kind and attentive as I told her about my nightmarish experience that I had at a med spa in California where I formerly resided. She listened to my concerns and recommended that I start with micro-needling to diminish the appearance of the scarring. This is when I was introduced to the esthetician Robin who was beyond outstanding and patient as she explained in detail each procedure and went over the cost details. I felt so comfortable that I decided to get my first micro-needling session with her on the very same day. I am so glad that I did because she was so gentle and checked in with me during the whole process to assure that I wasn’t uncomfortable or feeling any pain. Honestly, I felt that the micro-needling experience was quite pleasant and therapeutic in the hands and expertise of Robin. Thank you again Synder dermatology for a wonderful first time experience."- A.C. / Yelp / Apr 06, 2022
"I am so grateful to have found this office and the best Dermatologist. I see Dr Elizabeth Foley for my Rosacea. I had been through 3 different Dermatologist who had pretty much given up on me. I was determined to find someone that would help me look myself again.Dr Foley is an amazing doctor. Her bedside manner, the best. I finally felt like someone was listening and understood what I was going through. I can’t thank her enough. I highly recommend her to any/everyone."- R.C. / Yelp / Feb 17, 2022
"Visited their central Austin location. Very pleased with the treatment I received there and their wide range of services. Dr. Parker was very informative and made my experience pleasant."- G.L. / Yelp / Feb 08, 2022
"I can say that I’ve never been more happy to write a review as I type this!This is based on my recent experience with Dr. Foley for a dermatology appointment for skin & hair. Dr. Foley did 3 things well: Solutions-oriented, Education, & Bedside Manner.Solutions-oriented - I went to a previous "specialist" to get my hair and skin issue resolved. She prescribed me a bacterial medicine and said "There’s nothing we can do." I used the medicine for 3 months with no incremental impact. I decided to go with a second opinion and go to Dr. Foley. She assessed me and quickly came up with 4 solutions for my issues (injections, shampoo, gel, and pill) with the narrative "I like to attack the issue aggressively. And guess what? Dr. Foley’s solutions are working!!Education - Dr. Foley walked me through the science of my issues and how each of her 4 solutions would help resolve the issues. I enjoy knowing HOW things work and Dr. Foley’s expertise in dermatology was very clear - not to mention her ability to simplify her education into lay terms so you understand. When I shared my specialist experience, she said "You don’t have a bacterial issue. That diagnosis was wrong and I’m sorry that person led you in the wrong direction." This is the benefit of getting a second opinion of a true subject matter expert like Dr. Foley.Bedside Manner - First off, Dr. Foley is hilarious! If you like jokes/natural humor, it’s an added plus of seeing her. Throughout the injections, she was extremely patient and continued to check-in - which demonstrated an awareness to the patient experience (vs a simple doctoral transaction). Dr. Foley has me scheduled to come back next month to check on the impact of her recommendations. Not only am I going to be happy to show her the progress, I’m excited to laugh with her. Dr. Foley: Thank you for not only being good at what you do and helping to resolve my issues, but giving me hope again :)"- B.S. / Yelp / Jan 28, 2022
"I had my first appointment today, and it was a great first experience! I was seen on time, the appointment was upbeat and fun (which I didn’t expect), and I was out the door in no time. Dr. Foley and the staff were amazing. Glad that I decided to finally do something about my skin!"- R.L. / Yelp / Oct 04, 2021
Chronic sun exposure is the main cause of actinic keratosis and it is more prevalent in older individuals from years of sun damage. While only a small percentage of AKs turn into skin cancer, it's important to understand what this skin condition looks like and how to treat it. In most cases, this skin condition shows up as lesions that look red and scaly, as well as bumps and tan crusts that show up in multiple clusters that do not heal. When the condition first appears, it may feel only like rough texture on the skin. Sometimes this area will itch and become irritated. Over time, especially if it is exposed to more sun, the patchy area will turn red, scaly, bumpy, and inflamed and continue to grow. The more keratoses that exist, the chances of developing skin cancer increases. So any of these warning signs should be checked by a board certified dermatologist so that treatment can be provided, and future prevention discussed.
How to Treat Actinic Keratosis
Early intervention and treatment is important so that an isolated actinic keratosis or keratoses does not become skin cancer. The treatment option recommended will vary by patient depending on numerous factors such as the patient's age and health, color of skin, how widespread the condition is, growth characteristics of the lesion(s), location, etc. Some common treatment options include:
Cryosurgery is the method of taking liquid nitrogen and using it to destroy lesions (such as actinic keratosis). The procedure is performed in our office and uses liquid nitrogen via a spray to remove the growth. Most patients are able to leave the office shortly after the procedure.
- Electrodesiccation & Curettage
This is a procedure removes skin lesions by scraping the skin down to the unaffected layer. The procedure eliminates the lesion, as well as underlying tissue and/or pre-cancerous cells that may exist. This treatment causes minor scarring, but it remains a proven and effective substitute for surgery and is used in cases where the growth only affects the top layers of the skin. This is commonly used for hypertrophic (thick) actinic keratosis.
When actinic keratoses are widespread, prescription topical creams, gels or solutions may help improve the area and reduce symptoms, this is also called field therapy. These medications can be especially helpful when combined with other therapies, as they treat both the visible lesions and those not yet seen by the naked eye. A common medication used for treatment is 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), which is an FDA-approved topical chemotherapy. This medication is gently rubbed onto the affected area and lesions twice daily for several weeks. Other medications include Imiquimod cream, diclofenac, Picato® (ingenol mebutate), and other variations of fluorouracil that help reduce the lesion counts with a reduced incidence of scarring and in skin cancer.
- Chemical peels
Our dermatology office offers numerous chemical peel variations that can help remove the unhealthy surface layer and superficial lesions. The chemical agent most commonly used is trichloroacetic acid (TCA). This is applied to the skin, causing the top layers to peel and slough off. New skin regenerates and replaces the damaged tissue.
Plan Your Procedure
- 15 minutes
Schedule Your Consult Today!
If you have lesions that you believe may be related to sun exposure and could possibly be actinic keratosis, we recommend calling our Austin, TX dermatology practice to schedule your consultation. Almost all AKs can be eliminated if caught and treated early. We will provide a thorough analysis of your skin and provide the best possible recommendation for a healthy, long-term outcome.