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Andrew A. Hendricks, MD

Southeastern Dermatology, PA
4390 Fayetteville Road
Lumberton, North Carolina 28358

P. (910) 738-7154

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Actinic Keratosis - Lumberton, NC

What causes Actinic Keratosis?

Repeated, prolonged sun exposure causes skin damage, especially in fair-skinned persons. Sun-damaged skin becomes dry and wrinkled and may form rough, scaly spots called Actinic Keratoses. These rough spots remain on the skin even though the crust or scale is picked off. Treatment of an Actinic Keratosis requires removal of the defective skin cells. New skin then forms from the deeper skin cells, which have escaped sun damage.

Why treat Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic Keratoses are not skin cancers but are pre-cancerous.  Because they may sometimes turn into skin cancer, they should be removed.  Dr. Andrew Hendricks treats patients with Actinic Keratosis in North Carolina, South Carolina, and surrounding states. 

How do I treat Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic Keratoses are usually removed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.  Freezing cause blistering and shedding of the sun-damaged skin.  Another way is to surgically remove Actinic Keratoses with a scalpel or a scraping instrument called a curette.  Sometimes these removed Actinic Keratoses are sent for examination under a microscope to determine whether they are cancerous.  It they are not cancerous, no further treatment is necessary.  If the Actinic Keratosis is cancerous, then further surgery will be required by Dr. Hendricks to remove any cancer "roots".

Regardless of the method used, healing after removal takes 2 - 4 weeks depending on the size and location of the Actinic Keratosis. Hand and legs heal more slowly than the face. The skin usually heals with mild or minimal skin color changes.

When there are many keratoses, a useful treatment is the application of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) (Carac or Efudex cream) or Imiquimod (Aldara or Zyclara) cream. These applications are continued until Dr. Hendricks instructions.  These topical creams are effective in removing Actinic Keratoses from sun-exposed areas including the face, scalp, neck, chest, back, arm, and hand areas.  In addition, photodynamic therapy (PDT) may be used but requires a repeat or prolonged office visit.  

How do I prevent Actinic Keratosis?

Sun damage is permanent. Once sun damage has progressed to the point where Actinic Keratoses develop, new keratoses may appear even without further sun exposure. You should avoid excessive sun exposure - but don't go overboard and deprive yourself of the pleasure of being outdoors. Reasonable sun protection (e.g. hats, protective clothing) and the use of a 30+ SPF factor sunscreen should be your aim.

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