Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis) - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Solar keratosis or actinic Keratosis is a condition in which the skin becomes rough, thicken, and scaly, as a resultsun exposure in a long time or use of tools tanning to darken the skin.

Solar keratosis is generally experienced by someone aged 40 years and over and people who often spend a lot of time in the sun for a long time. Actinic keratosis develops slowly and causes no symptoms. Although rare, this condition has the potential to cause skin cancer.

Pcause Actinic Keratosis(Solar Keratosis)

Excessive exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet) is the main cause of actinic keratosis. Patients with solar keratosis will be more common in people who often do activities in direct sunlight and people who like to use tanning bed or skin blackening tool.

risk factors actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis can affect anyone. Even so, a person is more at risk of developing the condition if:

  • More than 40 years old.
  • Live in a place exposed to sunlight.
  • Have sensitive skin type.
  • Have a weak immune system, for example due to cancer, HIV/AIDS, and the use of chemotherapy drugs or immunosuppressant drugs.

Symptom Actinic Keratosis(Solar Keratosis)

Symptoms of actinic keratosis generally appear on parts of the skin that are often exposed to sunlight. Not everyone who is frequently exposed to the sun will experience actinic keratosis. However, if they do occur, some of the changes that can occur in the affected skin area are:

  • The skin is rough and thickened, it can even become like warts.
  • Scaly skin.
  • The skin turns red or brown in color.
  • The affected area is generally 2.5 cm or smaller in diameter.

Actinic keratosis is also painful and causes itching or burning around the affected skin area. This skin disorder generally occurs on the temples, forehead, scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, arms, and backs of the hands.

When to go to the doctor

Immediately consult a doctor if there are changes in the skin. Patients with actinic keratosis are also advised to see a doctor immediately if they experience the following symptoms to watch out for:

  • There is an unusual growth of tissue on the surface of the skin.
  • A new lump or skin tissue appears on the surface of the skin that gets bigger and hurts or bleeds.
  • Have had actinic keratosis before, and you can see new patches on the skin.

Diagnosis Actinic Keratosis(Solar Keratosis)

At the initial stage of the examination, the doctor will ask about the symptoms experienced. Then the doctor will perform a physical examination while paying attention to the area of ​​​​the skin that has abnormalities.

If there are still doubts and it is feared that the spots you are suffering from are caused by other causes, a dermatologist will perform a supporting examination. Investigations included skin examination with biopsy and dermoscopy.

When performing a dermoscopy, the doctor will use a magnifying microscope called dermatoscope to examine the skin surface and skin abnormalities that appear. In a biopsy procedure, the doctor will take a sample of the patient's tissue for further investigation in the laboratory.  

Treatment Actinic Keratosis(Solar Keratosis)

Usually actinic keratosis can recover on its own without medication. Doctors can advise patients to use sunscreen and moisturizer so that their skin condition does not get worse. This is done to prevent recurrence if the skin is exposed to the sun continuously.

For certain cases, actinic keratosis needs to be treated with drugs, special therapy, and surgery. The type of treatment is determined based on the number of solar keratosis experienced, its thickness and location, as well as the patient's overall health condition.


Medications are used if there are many actinic keratoses on the surface of the skin. The solar keratosis medication given is a topical medication (oles) in the form of a cream or gel. These medications include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory gels (NSAIDs), used for 3 months.
  • Fluorouracil cream, used for 3-4 weeks.
  • Salicylic acid ointment, can be used with fluorouracil cream.
  • Imiquimod cream, used 2-3 times per week for 4-16 weeks.

Therapy Photodynamic (PDT)

In this procedure, the doctor will apply a chemical to the problem skin. Then, the doctor will use a special lamp to destroy the actinic keratosis. This therapy can cause side effects on the skin, such as redness, swelling, and a burning sensation.


In this procedure, the doctor will use liquid nitrogen to freeze and remove the actinic keratosis. Cryotherapy can cause the problem area to blister, appear darker, change skin texture, form scar tissue, and develop infection.

Operation action

For severe cases, surgery with scraping doctors may be advised as a solution to remove the damaged cells. Initially the doctor will give the patient a local anesthetic injection, then scrape the damaged cells on the surface of the skin using a curette.

The operation will continue with the action electrosurgery which aims to kill the infected tissue in the body using an electric current. This surgery can cause side effects in the form of infection, skin blisters, and changes in skin structure in the operated area.

Complications Actinic Keratosis(Solar Keratosis)

If treatment has been carried out properly, solar keratosis rarely causes complications. However, in certain cases these solar keratotic spots can turn into squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell cancer is a skin cancer that is not life threatening. However, this cancer can spread to other tissues and organs of the body if not treated properly.

Prevention Actinic Keratosis(Solar Keratosis)

Protecting yourself from UV rays is very important to prevent the development and recurrence of actinic keratosis. If you are often active in the sun, it is highly recommended to take the following precautions:

  • Use a sunscreen that is water-resistant and contains SPF 30. Apply evenly on parts of the body that are often exposed to the sun.
  • Limit activities in direct sunlight between 10 am to 3 pm, because the ultraviolet rays emitted are very high.
  • Protect your skin from the sun with long sleeves, long pants, socks, closed shoes, jackets and hats.
  • Avoid using tanning bed. Tool tanning These can emit ultraviolet rays and radiation that can damage the skin.
  • Perform regular skin checks if you have skin problems so that they can be treated immediately if symptoms of solar keratosis are detected.