Drugs to Treat Actinic Keratosis


Actinic keratosis (or solar keratosis) is a skin lesion resulting from "prolonged and excessive exposure to the sun and UV rays, which leads to the formation of skin rash and erythematous scales on the skin. More specifically, this pathology appears after years of repeated sun exposure; not surprisingly, actinic keratosis mainly affects the elderly.


Excessive and frequent exposure to the sun or ultraviolet rays in general (eg. Artificial tanning) can cause skin disorders such as actinic keratosis; solar keratoses represent a cumulative phenomenon, in the sense that the skin, after having absorbed the UV radiation, suddenly rebels, forming more or less obvious sores.


Actinic keratosis affects rather sensitive skin areas, such as the face, hands, neck and scalp. In the sites affected by actinic keratosis, a clinical picture is manifested by erythematous scales of a natural / yellowish or gray color, often surrounded by a red halo and by telangiectasias. Itching, wart-like lesions and skin xerosis are also possible.

  • Actinic keratosis is one of the pre-neoplastic forms: it is not a tumor, but the possibility that the lesion transforms into a malignant form is still real

Solar radiation accelerates skin photoaging: in addition to actinic keratosis, the skin responds with wrinkles, freckles and solar freckles.

The information on Actinic Keratosis - Actinic Keratosis Medicines is not intended to replace the direct relationship between health professional and patient. Always consult your doctor and / or specialist before taking Actinic Keratosis - Drugs for the Treatment of Actinic Keratosis.


Since actinic keratosis is considered a pre-cancerous form, it is recommended to consult a doctor from the first symptoms, in addition to periodic control to monitor the possible progression of the disease. Despite what has been stated, it is necessary to reassure: it is not certain that the manifestation of the keratotic lesion always degenerates into a tumor form, but the possibility, even if minimal, must be considered.
The treatments recommended to treat actinic keratosis are many:

  • photodynamic therapy: aimed at eliminating cancerous and precancerous forms from the skin.
  • cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen
  • laser therapy
  • pharmacological therapy

Everyone knows that “prevention is better than cure”: according to this, it is understandable how essential it is to protect the skin from the UV radiation of the sun and artificial lamps, always applying a cream with sunscreens before exposing yourself to the sun. For those who are bald, it is essential to wear a hat: an apparently trivial but very useful measure to protect the scalp from solar radiation.
Let us now analyze in more detail which drugs are used in therapy for the treatment of actinic keratosis; the therapy is purely local.

The following are the classes of drugs most used in the therapy against actinic keratosis, and some examples of pharmacological specialties; it is up to the doctor to choose the most suitable active ingredient and dosage for the patient, based on the severity of the disease, the state of health of the patient and his response to treatment:

  • Diclofenac (eg Itamidol, Dicloreum, Zeroflog Spray Mucosa, Dolaut 4% U.EST.GEL SPR.25G): the drug belongs to the class of NSAIDs. A gel formulated with diclofenac is very effective in counteracting the lesions generated by actinic keratosis; it should be emphasized, however, that the treatment times are rather long. It is recommended to apply a film of cream directly on the lesion affected by actinic keratosis, once a day for 2-3 months. Do not exceed 8 grams per day. Typically, the first benefits are noticeable after 30 days.
  • Diclofenac gel 3% in hyaluronic acid (eg Solaraze): the combination of the two drugs is indicated for the dual analgesic-antioxidant action: actinic keratosis can generate pain and skin damage, therefore diclofenac is particularly useful; moreover, given that the cause of the skin disorder lies in exposure to UV rays, a product with antioxidant activity such as hyaluronic acid is very useful. Hyaluronic acid also enhances the action of diclofenac. Apply the product on skin affected by actinic keratosis, taking care to massage to favor its absorption. Continue therapy for 2-3 months, or until symptoms are completely resolved. Do not exceed 8 grams per day.
  • Fluorouracil (eg. Fluorouracil TEVA): it is a chemotherapy drug belonging to the class of antimetabolites. The drug is used in therapy for the treatment of actinic keratosis because it can destroy the damaged cells, blocking their functionality. The product is no longer marketed in Italy for the treatment of actinic keratosis. In the countries where it is authorized, the dose is to apply the product on the skin 1-2 times a day, possibly covering the skin with an occlusive bandage. The duration of therapy is 3-4 weeks.
  • Imiquimod (eg Aldara cream): the drug is formulated in the form of a cream for topical application, indicated to treat actinic keratosis: the drug exerts its therapeutic activity by acting as an immunomodulator, inhibiting the replication of cells damaged by actinic keratosis and potentially malignant. Indicatively, it is recommended to apply the product (cream or gel) 3 times a week for a month. After this time, continue with 4 weeks of suspension, at the end of which it is possible to repeat the treatment in case of persistence or relapses. Consult your doctor.
  • 5-aminolevulinic acid (eg Gliolan): the drug is formulated in the form of a cream for the treatment of actinic keratoses not associated with hyperkeratosis of the scalp and face. Indicated as a second-line therapy, to be used when the other active ingredients are not able to bring obvious benefit to the patient.
  • Collagenase (eg Nuroxol, Iruxol): apply the cream on the area affected by actinic keratosis, once a day. The duration of therapy must be determined by the doctor. The enzymes called collagenases are involved in the complex activity of destruction of extracellular structures involved in pathological processes: for this reason, collagenase-based drugs are sometimes used to treat actinic keratosis.
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