Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), also known as Blue Light Therapy, is a treatment that uses light-activated drugs and specific light spectrums to destroy pre-cancerous cells and heal inflammation in the skin. Studies have shown that this therapy can be just as effective as chemotherapy creams or certain surgical procedures in treating pre-cancers.
About PDT Treatment
PDT is a quick procedure with little discomfort. Patients who receive PDT are treated with a photosensitizing drug that is applied to the skin. Photosensitizing drugs, also known as photosensitizers or photosensitizing agents, are medications which react upon exposure to a specific spectrum of light. More specifically, aminolevulinic acid is activated by blue light. PDT has been effectively used to treat actinic keratoses (pre-cancerous spots), sun damaged skin, acne and oily skin, pigmentation, and skin texture.
The photosensitizer (aminolevulinic acid) is absorbed by all cells but is much better absorbed in the damaged or pre-cancerous cells than in healthy cells. The cells are exposed to light approximately 1-2 hours after application, depending on the interval of time needed for the cells to absorb the specific drug being used. The light-sensitive agent still remaining in the cells absorbs the light and reacts with oxygen to form a chemical that destroys the cells. Nearby normal healthy tissue is undamaged by PDT.
Since photosensitizing agents need light to be activated, PDT can only be used to treat damaged or pre-cancerous cells on or just below the skin.
“PDT also known as photo dynamic therapy or blue light is a popular treatment most commonly used for precancerous lesions and actinic damaged skin but can also be used for other conditions such as acne, rosacea, or photo rejuvenation. PDT is an in office procedure that involves application of a photosensitizing agent called Levulanic Acid (Kerastick) to the areas requiring treatment. The levulan will incubate on the affected area anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on the location. After incubation the patient is placed under a “Blue Light” for 16 minutes and 40 seconds, during this time the “Blue Light” activates the levulan solution causing the affected cells to undergo destruction. For optimal results we recommend two treatments for actinic keratosis(pre cancer’s) and actinic damaged skin, but for conditions such as acne and rosacea they may require additional treatments. Common side effects after the treatment are slight discomfort, redness, swelling, peeling or burning that will subside within a few days. Patients are also informed to practice strict sun avoidance two days following the procedure as they are still very photosensitive to both sun exposure and bright UV light. Some contraindications to treatment would be patient’s with a history of “sun sensitive” skin, conditions such as lupus or porphyria, or patients that are pregnant and or breastfeeding. A big advantage of this procedure over alternative treatments is that it is a simple in office procedure with minimal downtime ,and minimal at home requirements, yet very effective. PDT is sometimes covered under insurance for treating Actinic keratosis and actinic damaged skin, but may be viewed as cosmetic for treatment of acne, rosacea and photo rejuvenation. An insurance precertification would be required to determine patients benefits.” – Raven Elosiebo – Walker,MD
Benefits of Photodynamic Therapy
PDT, which is less invasive than surgery, is virtually pain-free and can be done on an outpatient basis just like a laser treatment. Benefits include less risk of complications than chemotherapy creams or surgical procedures and minimal side effects when used properly. There is little to no scarring after treatment. PDT can be repeated on the same area.
Following treatment, some patients experience an itching or burning sensation for roughly one hour. Any redness should fade after 24 to 48 hours. Swelling in areas, such as around the eyes, will subside after several hours with the use of a cold compress. Peeling of the skin can occur within the days following the procedure. Gentle washing and moisturizing can help to alleviate this.
Patients may experience sensitivity to bright light. Direct sunlight and bright indoor light should strictly be avoided for at least 48 hours. Sunscreen may be able to help diminish the photosensitivity.
To learn more about photodynamic therapy, contact Aesthetic Specialty Centre Plastic Surgery & Dermatology today at (770) 393-9000 in Roswell or (706) 467-6500 in Greensboro. ADSC is conveniently located near Atlanta, Georgia
*The information about Photodynamic Therapy was reviewed by Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Marc E. Yune. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us using our contact form below.