An actinic keratosis, or AK, usually appears as a rough, dry, scaly patch or growth on the skin. AKs are considered pre-cancers, and if left untreated may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
Actinic keratoses are often rough-feeling patches of skin which can be difficult to see and are sometimes painful when rubbed. They may itch or burn. They may also come and go since sometimes they flake off.
Treatments include freezing the spots, which then peel off within a few days to weeks. This is the most common treatment. Other treatments include a chemical peel which destroys the top layers of skin, and healthy new skin replaces it. Laser or other light treatments may also be used in certain cases.
Sometimes prescription medications are needed in the form of creams or gels that you apply to the area. This is often used when there are many actinic keratoses in one or more areas.