What is photodynamic therapy?
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that uses a light source and an activating medication (a drug that starts to work in the presence of light).
PDT is sometimes known as blue light therapy. However, in addition to blue light sources, the light could also come from lasers, intense pulsed light (IPL), light-emitting diodes (LEDs), red light, and even natural sunlight. The optimal light source for your treatment can vary depending on the wavelength required for a particular drug.
The aim of the treatment is to destroy abnormal cells in your skin. As light doesn’t penetrate more than one-third of an inch into your skin, the target area needs to be close to the surface for photodynamic therapy to work.
What does photodynamic therapy involve?
Photodynamic therapy takes place in three stages:
Your provider at Island Dermatology applies a light-sensitizing cream or liquid to your skin or gives you a photosensitizer medication intravenously (via a vein in your arm).
The second stage is an incubation period that could last for minutes or hours.
Your provider exposes the treated skin to a specific light wavelength that activates the photosensitizing substance.
This process produces activated oxygen molecules that destroy the abnormal cells in the target area.
What conditions can photodynamic therapy treat?
Photodynamic therapy is a useful treatment for several conditions, including:
- Sun damage
- Enlarged sebaceous glands
- Hidradenitis suppurativa
The Island Dermatology team uses photodynamic therapy to treat acne. There are several ways in which the treatment may work – shrinking the oil glands in your skin, killing acne-causing bacteria, and stopping the abnormal shedding of dead skin cells.
One of photodynamic therapy’s main uses is in treating superficial skin cancers (actinic keratoses) and other thin nonmelanoma skin cancers.
How does photodynamic therapy help with actinic keratoses?
Actinic keratoses are rough lesions that most often form on your scalp, face, the backs of your hands, ears, the back of your forearms, neck, and shoulders. They usually affect older people after years of exposure to the sun.
Having actinic keratosis increases your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, so monitoring the lesions is important. The Island Dermatology team uses the photosensitizer Levulan® Kerastick® followed by exposure to a special blue light source.
If you have a skin condition that could benefit from photodynamic therapy, call Island Dermatology to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online today.