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Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment performed in the office using a topical photo-sensitizer called Levulan, or aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and a specific blue light. ALA is activated by the blue light to treat actinic keratoses and acne. Actinic keratoses(AK) are precancerous lesions that can evolve into squamous cell skin cancer (SCC) over time.
The goal of ALA-PDT is to reduce the number of AKs and thus reduce the risk of developing SCC. Treatment alternatives include topical chemotherapy and immune-modulating regimens. When you schedule an apt to discuss your AKs we will determine whether ALA-PDT or another treatment option is right for you. ALA-PDT is covered by many insurance carriers and our office will determine your benefits if you decide on this treatment.
One major advantage of ALA-PDT is many patients see an improvement in their skin tone and texture and get a cosmetic benefit from the procedure in addition to treating their AKs. Generally 2-3 monthly Photodynamic Therapy/Bluelight treatments are performed.
This treatment can also be used to improve acne. The blue light alone kills the bacteria, P.acnes, that contributes to acne. Generally weekly treatments for 6 weeks are done. When ALA is added to the blue light (ALA_PDT) then the oil glands are treated in addition to the P.acnes and more improvement can be seen. There can be some redness and inflammation from the combined treatment so this is performed monthly for three treatments. This treatment is not covered by insurance for the treatment of acne but is a good alternative to patients who have not had success with standard therapies.
Your skin will be cleansed. The ALA or Levulan is then applied to the skin and allowed to incubate painlessly for about 60-90 minutes. The ALA is preferentially absorbed by the AKs and oil glands. A specific blue light is then used to activate the ALA that has been absorbed thus directly treating the AK or oil gland that is contributing to acne. This blue light exposure lasts 16 minutes during which you may experience mild to moderate stinging. You should expect mild to moderate redness and scaling that can persist for 3-7 days.