Actinic Keratosis (AK) is caused by damage from sun exposure and typically involves scaly, crusty, raised lesions in areas that get the greatest sun exposure, such as the face, lips, backs of hands and a bare head. The lesions can turn red, or may be tan, pink or flesh-colored.
Without proper treatment, AK can develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), or sometimes even basal cell carcinoma. (See Skin Cancer)
The good news is that early intervention can prevent AK from developing into skin cancer. There are a variety of treatments depending on the stage of the AK and the patient, but may include Cryosurgery, topical medications, Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), Curettage and Electrodessication, chemical peels or laser surgery.
Photodynamic Therapy adds a photosensitive drug to light treatment for pre-cancerous lesions, blotchiness, and enlarged pores.
After the drug is applied to the skin, a light or laser is used to activate it. Once activated, the drug attacks abnormal cells, including pre-cancerous cells and sun-damaged skin cells. The result is improved skin tone, smoother skin texture, and reduced appearance of pores.
Photodynamic Therapy has FDA approval for a Actinic Keratosis and Actinic Cheilitis (chronically chapped lips)— two pre-cancerous skin conditions associated with chronic exposure to sunlight. Photodynamic Therapy works well for improving any type of sun-damaged skin. It is also be used to treat acne and rosacea.
Photodynamic Therapy allows for precise targeting of various individual skin issues and the appropriate laser and light sources can be used to activate the solution, including pulsed dye lasers, light-emitting diodes, and IPL.
Photodynamic Therapy can be combined with the non-ablative laser or light treatment because of its enhanced clinical results and minimal side effects. Using Photodynamic Therapy as an adjunct to laser/light therapy often achieves better results with fewer treatment sessions.
After treatment you may experience peeling / flaking of the skin, redness, dark spots, swelling, stinging/burning (usually lasts 24 hours) or tenderness. These effects usually resolve in 5–7 days and will be completely resolved in 3–4 weeks.
It is imperative that you avoid sunlight or bright indoor lighting for the next 48 hours. If you must go outside wear light blocking clothing and hats. SPF does not protect the skin during this time frame. Daily use of SPF 30 sunscreen is recommended.
Be sure to keep skin well moisturized. Top with Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream as needed for dryness. You can also use a 1% topical hydrocortisone lotion 2–3 times a day for redness and use cool compresses as needed for swelling. Tylenol or Advil may be taken according to manufacturer’s recommendations for tenderness or discomfort.
Click here to download after treatment care PDF.
To learn more about available treatments: Request an appointment.