What are the treatment options for actinic keratosis (AK)?

Updated: Jan 30, 2020
  • Author: Ginard I Henry, MD; Chief Editor: Gregory Gary Caputy, MD, PhD, FICS  more...
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The first line of treatment is prevention. Persons with actinic keratoses must avoid further sun damage by habitual use of high-factor sunscreen with each sun exposure. For direct treatment of an actinic keratosis, various treatments are available. Isolated or single lesions can be treated with cryoablation with liquid nitrogen, curettage, or electrodesiccation with local anesthesia. Multiple lesions can be treated with topical 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). Occasionally, a relatively depigmented spot may remain after topical treatment.

Other treatment options include resurfacing with either laser (carbon dioxide or Erbium:YAG) or dermabrasion. Topical steroids may be used in tandem with 5-FU to attenuate the inflammatory response. An important benefit of topical therapy is its ability to eliminate subclinical actinic keratoses adjacent to the clinically obvious ones. Excision and primary closure is an uncommon option for actinic keratosis. However, it can be used when lesion diagnosis or progression is in question and, therefore, a full-thickness skin excision biopsy is likely to yield the best diagnostic results.

Go to Actinic Keratosis for complete information on this topic.

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