What is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?
This technology employs the use of a chemical that is naturally present in our bodies along with certain wavelengths of visible light to affect abnormal skin lesions. It is FDA approved to treat actinic keratoses (AK), precancerous skin lesions that commonly occur after years of sun exposure. It also results in a rejuvenated appearance. PDT can be used instead of liquid nitrogen cryotherapy and topical creams, which are applied daily and results in an unsightly appearance lasting several weeks. PDT is also used for acne, rosacea, superficial skin cancer, aging skin and several other skin conditions but it is not yet FDA approved for these conditions.
The treatment is a 2-step process that combines the application of a topical solution called Levulan® Kerastick® followed by the use of a laser. Upon application to the skin, it is selectively absorbed by sundamaged skin and then activated with the use of a laser . The light activation takes only several minutes. PDT has a high success rate with good preservation of normal skin with little chance for scarring. PDT allows for an entire area of sun damaged skin to be treated at once, thereby reducing the chance of undetected pre-cancer cells going untreated.
When used for acne Photodynamic Therapy works by shrinking the skin’s oil glands, thereby reducing oil in pores and comedones (black heads), and kills bacteria that cause acne breakouts, helping to reduce pustules and papules. PDT also normalizes the shedding of dead skin cells within the follicle, improving the overall skin’s texture. Repeat treatments are necessary.
What will the procedure feel like?
About half of the patients treated feel varying degrees of tingling, burning of stinging during exposure to the fluorescent blue lights, which stops immediately after the light activation ceases.
How effective is it?
Studies have show that it has cleared 100% of AKs in about 2/3 of patients after 8 weeks. Many patients will benefit from a second treatment after 8 weeks.
What can be expected after treatment?
Immediately following the PDT treatment you may experience the following common symptoms of redness, scaling and slight swelling which may become increase during the next 24-48 hours. Itching and mild to moderate pain may occur. Flakiness, crusting and rarely blistering may occur during days 2-7 following treatment and is best referred to as an intense sunburn-like reaction.Generally by days 7-10 the redness and scaling have subsided , the majority of AKs resolved, the skin looks and feels rejuvenated. To prevent an excessive reaction, strict sun avoidance is important for 24-48 hours after PDT treatment.