Actinic Keratosis vs Psoriasis: Know the Differences

Difference between Actinic Keratosis vs Psoriasis: Actinic Keratosis and Psoriasis are skin conditions with different causes and symptoms. Actinic Keratosis originates from long skin exposure and then turns into a rough, scaly patch on the area exposed by the sun which may lead to skin cancer. Freezing or tropical medications are treatments for Actinic Keratosis. Whereas Psoriasis results from an autoimmune response which leads to red, raised patches which are covered with silver scales and cause itching. Topical Medications, oral medications, phototherapy, biologics, and lifestyle adjustments are some available treatment options.

Difference between Actinic Keratosis and Psoriasis

Actinic Keratosis arises from sun exposure, which appears as rough, scaly patches, while Psoriasis arises from autoimmune responses, causing red, scaly patches with silvery scales.The table below provides the differences between Actinic Keratosis and Psoriasis.


Actinic Keratosis



Prolonged sun exposure

Autoimmune disorder affecting skin cell growth


Rough, scaly patches on sun-exposed areas

Red, raised patches with silvery scales, itching


Sun-exposed areas like face, scalp, arms, hands

Commonly on elbows, knees, scalp, lower back

Risk of Cancer

Considered precancerous, potential to develop into SCC

Not precancerous, but can lead to complications


Cryotherapy, topical medications, photodynamic therapy

Topical medications, phototherapy, oral medications, biologics


Usually benign but may progress to skin cancer

Chronic condition, management required for flare-ups

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What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic Keratosis is a skin condition marked by rough, scaly patches that develop on the parts of the skin that have been exposed to the sun. These marks on the skin may appear on the face, scalp, ears, arms and neck. Though not all Actinic Keratoses can lead to skin cancer it still is a precancerous condition. It is important to identify and treat the condition to reduce the risk of cancer. Treatment options involve cryotherapy, topical medications, photodynamic therapy, chemical peels, and surgical removal.

Causes of Actinic Keratosis

  • Sun Exposure: Exposure to the sun for a long period without any protection increases the risk of Actinic Keratosis.
  • Geographical Location: Living in regions which are exposed to sunlight on high levels or closer to the equator or are at higher altitudes increases exposure to UV rays.
  • Fair Skin: People with fair or light-coloured skin are more prone to UV damage and have a higher risk of developing Actinic Keratosis.
  • Age: Actinic Keratosis is more common in older adults, as cumulative sun exposure over a lifetime increases the likelihood of developing these lesions.
  • Weakened Immune System: Individuals who have a weak immune system suffer HIV/AIDS or are undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, have an increased risk of developing Actinic Keratosis.

Symptoms of Actinic Keratosis

  • Rough Texture: Affected skin areas usually feel rough and gritty, similar to sandpaper, because of the thickened scaly patches.
  • Scaly Patches: Actinic Keratosis lesions appear as small, dry, scaly patches on the skin. These patches range in colour from pink to red or brown, and they often have a flat or slightly raised appearance.
  • Irregular Borders: The borders of Actinic Keratosis lesions may appear to be poorly defined, which blend into the surrounding skin.
  • Size: Actinic Keratosis lesions can vary in size from a few millimetres to several centimetres in diameter.
  • Location: Actinic Keratosis lesions commonly occur in areas which are exposed to the sun. This includes the face, scalp, ears and neck.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a continual autoimmune pores and skin circumstance characterised by the fast buildup of skin cells, mainly to the formation of thick, crimson patches with silvery scales. It is due to an ordinary immune response that triggers the pores and skin cells to grow too fast, normally taking days as opposed to weeks to mature. This excessive increase results within the formation of raised, inflamed patches, known as plaques, which can appear everywhere on the body however typically occur on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. Psoriasis is not contagious, however it can be associated with different fitness situations inclusive of psoriatic arthritis, which impacts the joints.

Causes of Psoriasis

  • Genetics: Psoriasis tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the condition. Specific genetic variations, particularly related to immune gadget genes, might also increase the probability of developing Psoriasis.
  • Immune System Dysfunction: Psoriasis is taken into consideration as an autoimmune ailment, in which the immune gadget mistakenly assaults wholesome skin cells, triggering infection and the fast turnover of pores and skin cells.
  • Environmental Triggers: Certain environmental elements can exacerbate or trigger Psoriasis flare-usain prone people. These triggers might also encompass stress, infections, injury to the skin , and positive medicinal drugs.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Lifestyle conduct together with smoking, immoderate alcohol consumption, weight problems, and poor eating regimen can also have an impact on the improvement and severity of Psoriasis.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal adjustments, inclusive of the ones occurring at some stage in puberty, being pregnant, or menopause, can affect the immune machine and potentially cause or worsen Psoriasis signs.

Symptoms of Psoriasis

  • Red Patches of Skin: Areas of pores and skin stricken by Psoriasis commonly appear pink or pink in coloration because of infection.
  • Thickened Skin: The affected pores and skin regularly turns into thickened and raised, forming plaques. These plaques may additionally have a silvery-white or greyish appearance due to the accumulation of dead skin cells.
  • Silvery Scales: Psoriasis plaques are frequently protected with silvery-white scales, which result from the rapid turnover of skin cells.
  • Dry and Cracked Skin: The skin stricken by Psoriasis may additionally feel dry, cracked, and once in a while painful or itchy.
  • Itching or Burning Sensation: Psoriasis can motivate itching or a burning sensation, mainly in regions in which the skin is specifically inflamed.

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Similarity between Actinic Keratosis and Psoriasis

  • Skin Manifestations: Both conditions involve skin changes and can cause visible symptoms on the skin.
  • Chronic Nature: Both conditions are chronic in nature, meaning they are long-lasting and often require ongoing management.
  • Inflammatory Component: Psoriasis is known to be an inflammatory condition, and while AK is primarily caused by sun damage, inflammation may also play a role in its development and progression.

To summarise, both Actinic Keratosis and Psoriasis affect the skin, they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Actinic Keratosis is caused by UV exposure, while Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease caused due to rapid skin cell growth. Treatment approaches for each condition vary depending on the degree of the case.

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What causes Actinic Keratosis?

Prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun or any other artificial source is the main cause of Keratosis.

Are all Actinic Keratosis cancerous?

While actinic keratoses are considered precancerous lesions, not all of them develop into skin cancer.

How can Actinic Keratosis be treated?

Cryotherapy, topical medications, chemical peels, photodynamic therapy, and surgical removal are some treatment options available.

Can Psoriasis be cured?

No, Psoriasis cannot be cured but some treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. These treatments may include topical medications, phototherapy, oral medications, biologics, and lifestyle modifications.

Is Psoriasis associated with other health conditions? Psoriasis is associated with several other health conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.