Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a two-stage treatment uses light energy and a cream to destroy cancerous and precancerous cells.
These treatments combined remove sun damaged precancerous spots, and also improve sun-damaged skin, fine lines, blotchy pigmentation, and rough skin patches. PDT also has the unique ability to minimize pores and reduce oil glands-effectively treating stubborn acne vulgaris, acne, Rosacea, and improving the appearance of some acne scars.
Actinic keratoses (AK) are often called "sun spots". They are rough textured, dry scaly patches on the skin that are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) such as sunlight. Up to 58 million Americans have AKs.
Actinic keratoses are the most common precancer and are considered to be the first step in the development of skin cancer. They have the potential to progress to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). While most AKs remain benign, a study has shown that approximately 10 percent develop into SCC within an average of 2 years.
A medication called Levulan is applied to the area of sun damage that has been evaluated and diagnosed by one of our dermatologic health care providers. The medication is absorbed by the damaged cells after a prescribed “incubation” period. The area is then exposed to the LED light for a specific amount of time which causes a chemical reaction destroying only the damaged cells. After the damaged cells are destroyed, healthy new cells will replace them.
After photodynamic sun avoidance for 24-48 hours is necessary. Cleanse treatment area with a gentle cleanser such as Cetaphil. A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above is necessary, even if you are not planning on going outside. We suggest a sunscreen that contains zinc or titanium. Appropriate sunscreens are available for purchase in our office. If your skin becomes very irritated, use an over the counter 1% Hydrocortisone Cream twice a day.
Overall, patients with severely sun-damaged skin with actinic keratosis, mottled pigmentation, dull or sallow skin, and skin laxity, may see good to excellent improvement with PDT. There can be improvement of large pores, non-pitted acne scars, and active acne. Depending on the area being treated and the recommended incubation time, different numbers of treatment sessions spaced 4 to 6 weeks apart may be required to achieve the desired improvement and reduction in lesions. On average, a series of two to three treatments are performed. It is not always possible to predict ahead of time how many treatments your specific condition may take or how you will respond to PDT.