Actinic keratosis, also called solar keratosis or senile keratosis, is characterized by thick, scaly or crusty patches or lesions on the skin, usually on areas that receive excessive sun exposure, such as the face, ears, neck, lips, forearms and the back of the hands. It is considered a precancerous skin condition.
Actinic keratoses develop in range reaching to a quarter of an inch and may even disappear for a time. Their colors include red (most common), light or dark tan, pink or skin colored. Actinic keratoses may itch and may become inflamed and red and may even bleed.
Actinic keratoses appear as rough, callous, scaly lesions or plaques on the skin’s surface. Although dry, rough patches are typical, actinic keratoses may also present as oozing lesions that do not heal or as thick, horny growths. Lesions may vary in color from light beige tones to dark brown and range in size from a small dot to approximately an inch in diameter. Actinic keratosis lesions may seem to appear and disappear periodically, or they may remain in place for a long period of time.
The amount of sun exposure you may have had throughout your lifetime, having a light complexion, and having blond or red hair and blue or green eyes all put you at greater risk for actinic keratosis.
People who live in sunnier areas of the country and those who spend a significant amount of time outdoors because of their jobs may also be at higher risk for actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis is most commonly observed in people age forty and older.