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Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis, also known as Solar Keratosis, present as pink, scaling patches on sun exposed skin.  They feel rough, almost like sandpaper.  Actinic Keratosis develops most often on the face and on bald scalps, and are the result of sun damage.  People who work outdoors, people with fair or ginger colouring, or people who sunbathe regularly are more at risk of developing sun damaged skin.  

Actinic Keratosis range from flat and slightly rough to more thickened crusty lesions.  People seek treatment to improve the appearance of the Actinic Keratosis, and to try to reduce the risk of developing skin cancers.  

The treatment for Actinic Keratosis depends on how superficial or thick the lesions are.  People with Actinic Keratosis are advised to wear a high factor sunscreen.  There are a number of prescription-only gels and creams that smooth the skin and reduce the appearance of Actinic Keratosis. These are available from your GP or from a Dermatologist. Other more specialist treatments include Photodynamic Therapy and Cryotherapy (Freezing). 


Cryotherapy is a quick, effective treatment for both superficial or thick Actinic Keratosis.  The treatment involves having a very cold spray directed on to the Actinic Keratosis and a small rim of surrounding skin.  Each Actinic Keratosis is treated for about 10 - 20 seconds, depending on the thickness.  Cryotherapy stings and most people find it uncomfortable, but it is only for a few seconds.  


After Cryotherapy, the treated area may become swollen and red.  It may blister.  This reaction lasts for 1 - 2 weeks.  After this the Actinic Keratosis dries up, then starts to crust.  As the scab comes off, the underlying skin is pink and this usually fades to skin colour within a few weeks.  For most people the treated area heals without any scarring, but there is always a risk of developing a pale white patch (hypopigmentation) especially if the Actinic Keratosis is crusty and needs a longer treatment time.  Actinic Keratosis may recur after treatment, although it usually takes several years to do so. Sometimes they do not respond to treatment with cryotherapy, particularly with thicker Actinic Keratosis.  In this situation, the Actinic Keratosis  may need to be removed by Skin Surgery.

Please click on the links below to read the Patient Information Leaflet on Actinic Keratosis:

British Association of Dermatologists

New Zealand Academy of Dermatology

Please click on the link below to read the Patient Information Leaflet on Cryotherapy:

British Association of Dermatologists

Please click here to book an appointment and to see the Price List for Cryotherapy

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