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Actinic keratosis (AK), also called solar keratosis, is a chronic skin condition caused by cellular changes related to long-term, intense exposure to UV rays (such as tanning machines). Fair-skinned individuals are more at risk for developing AK lesions, which are dry, scaly patches that can range in size, color, appearance, texture, and depth.
AK typically occur on the face, lips, ears, scalp, back of the hands, and forearms—the parts of the body most often exposed to the sun. Sometimes they can’t be seen but can be felt. Many AK lesions never progress, but some of them eventually go on to become squamous cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.
People are becoming better educated about the effects of the sun and more active in taking appropriate measures to protect their skin. But the impact of exposures earlier in life can, and usually does, show up years later as chronic skin conditions that need medical attention.
Treatment is destruction of lesion with liquid nitrogen/cryotherapy (freezing), topical medications applied in the office or at home, or photodynamic therapy.
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