An actinic keratosis, also known as a solar keratosis, is a small, rough spot occurring on skin that has been chronically exposed to the sun. Actinic keratoses generally measure in size between two to six millimeters in diameter (between the size of a pencil point and that of an eraser). They are usually reddish in color, with a rough texture and often have a white or yellowish scale on top. Actinic keratosis often occurs against a background of sun damage, including sallowness, wrinkles, and superficial blood vessels.
In addition to feeling rough, actinic keratoses may feel sore or painful when fingers or clothing rub against them.
Specialized forms of actinic keratoses include cutaneous horns, in which the skin protrudes in a thick, hornlike manner, and actinic cheilitis, which refers to scaling and roughness of the lower lip and blurring of the border of the lip and adjacent skin.
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