Actinic Keratosis - Treatments

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What was the treatment for your actinic keratosis?

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How is an actinic keratosis treated?

The best treatment for an AK is prevention. For light-skinned individuals, this means minimizing their sun exposure. By the time actinic keratoses develop, however, the relevant ultraviolet radiation is often so far in the past that prudent preventive measures play a relatively small role. Fortunately, treatment methods are usually simple and straightforward:

  • Cryosurgery: Freezing AKs with liquid nitrogen often causes them to slough off and go away.


  • Other forms of surgery: Doctors sometimes cut away or burn off AKs.


  • 5-fluorouracil (5-FU): Creams containing this medication cause AKs to become red and inflamed before they fall off. Although effective, this method often produces unsightly and uncomfortable skin for a period of weeks, thus making it impractical for many patients. This method is best for patients who have a great deal of sun damage and many AKs. Once the skin heals, it often looks much smoother and even-toned, in addition to having fewer actinic keratoses.


  • Imiquimod (Aldara): This immune stimulator is similar in its indications and effects to 5-FU.


  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT): This therapy involves applying a dye (aminolevulinic acid [Levulan] or ALA) that sensitizes the skin to light, leaving it on for about one hour, and then exposing the skin to light that activates the dye. This light can come from a laser or other light source. Like 5-FU and imiquimod, photodynamic therapy works best for patients with many AKs. Patients need to avoid exposure to sun or intense fluorescent light for two days after treatment to prevent ongoing peeling.


  • Diclofenac (Solaraze): This cream is an nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID), an agent related to ibuprofen [Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever], a popular medication for headaches). Diclofenac is gentler than 5-FU or imiquimod, causing less inflammation, but must be applied for a longer period of about two months to achieve benefits.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: MonkeysMommy2008, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 09

I am 41 and have AK spots on both cheeks; two on upper lip and one very recently has appeared on my arm. I have been dealing with the ones on my face for years and I feel like "you name it, I have tried it". Nothing works, not even freezing. My dermatologist just called me in an Rx for Picato which was just approved by the FDA in 2012. Fingers crossed and I will try to remember to post a follow-up.

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Comment from: Mickeyfin, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: November 20

I have been treated with Imiquimod and had over 100 AK (actinic keratosis) lesions. It was painful and bloody, but effective. I am treating my lip now, it is a drag. However, all my AK is highly visible and I want to avoid surgery. Imiquimod is effective for me so I tolerate the side effects. No more sun for me, all long sleeves and # 50 SPF.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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