Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a procedure that uses a photosensitizing drug to apply light therapy, selectively, to target pre-skin cancer, acne and sun damage.
What PDT Can Help/Cure
PDT can help clear the skin of actinic keratoses which are premalignant growths in sun-exposed areas, mainly the face, chest, arms and hands. It is also effective for moderate-severe acne. A series of treatments can put acne into remission for months, without taking oral medications. When used with levulan, the results achieved are better and faster than when using the light alone.
What To Expect Before, During and After The Procedure
Before the procedure, the skin will be cleansed thoroughly. The aminolevulinic acid, a clear liquid, will be applied to the entire surface of the skin that is to be treated. This will incubate, or be absorbed, for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your condition, the light used, and area of body treated. Multiple different light sources can be used including blue light, red light, intense pulsed light, pulsed dye laser and some others. Occasionally, you will feel some burning discomfort during the treatment lessened by fans or cold air. After the treatment, the skin involved will be extremely light sensitive for 48 hours until the medication is completely metabolized. Hats, scarves and thick sun block with zinc oxide and light avoidance are required to protect the skin during that time. Most of the time, some redness and mild peeling occur over the first 2-3 days. Occasionally, there can be a burning discomfort for 24 hours and more prolonged peeling and redness 5-14 days can occur.
The “PDT” Effect
Although not a “complication,” the “PDT effect” is the most common problem associated with this procedure. “PDT effect” is the redness and peeling that occurs after the procedure. This can be pronounced with significant crusting and some discomfort. Severe reactions occur usually for one of two reasons. If someone has a large number of pre-skin cancers, much more of the drug will be absorbed and there will be a stronger reaction. People sometimes think that driving in their car is “staying inside” or they are going to just run a few errands, but the sun’s rays penetrate through window glass and even high SPF sun block is not adequate protection during the first 48 hours. However, the PDT effect resolves within 1-2 weeks. People who have severe reactions often have excellent results.
Questions To Ask
When meeting with your physician, ask how many treatments you will need and what to expect. Ask what kind of maintenance treatments you can have and how to keep your skin in good condition after you have completed the treatment course.