Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a special treatment performed with a topical photosensitizing agent called Levulan (5-aminolevulinic acid or ALA) activated with the correct wavelength of light.

PDT for Pre-cancerous Growths:
These treatments remove sun damaged pre-cancerous zones and spots called actinic keratoses. Sun damage, and blotchy pigmentation are also improved because of the positive effect of Levulan and the light treatment.

Photodynamic Therapy with Levulan is used for:

  • Removing pre-cancerous skin lesions
  • Preventing skin cancer
  • Improving wrinkles
  • Improving pores
  • Improving skin texture
  • Improving pigmentation
  • Treating moderate to severe cystic acne
  • Treating sebaceous hyperplasia

Photodymanic Therapy for Actinic Keratosis

How much improvement can I expect?
If you have severely sun damaged skin manifested by Actinic Keratoses, texture, and tone changes including mottled pigmentation and skin laxity, you’ll likely see excellent results. You may also see reduction in pore size.

How many treatments will it take to see the “best” results?

To achieve maximum improvement of pre-cancerous (actinic keratoses) sun damage, skin tone and texture, a series of 2-3 treatments 4-8 weeks apart is most effective.  Some patients with actinic keratoses are happy with one treatment. More treatments can be done at periodic intervals in the future to maintain the rejuvenated appearance of your skin.

Planning your treatment

Prepare to be in the office for 2-3 hours on the day of treatment. Patients often bring reading material, work, or craft to keep them busy.  ALA Levulan is active for 24 hours so you must stay inside for a full day following treatment. This is an important consideration in scheduling your treatment.

What are the disadvantages?

Following PDT, the treated areas can appear red and swollen with some peeling for 2-7 days. Some patients have an exuberant response to PDT, and experience marked redness of their skin. Temporary swelling of the lips and tissue around your eyes can occur for a few days. Darker pigmented patches like freckles and sun spots can become temporarily darker after treatment, and then peel off leaving normal skin. (This usually occurs over seven to ten days).  

What are the advantages?

  • Easier for patients than repeated topical liquid nitrogen, or topical chemotherapy creams, because the side effects are minimal and there is rapid healing.
  • The ALA/PDT treatment is more comprehensive in addressing sun damage as compared to liquid nitrogen treatments (“spot treatment”).
  • Reduced scarring and improved cosmetic outcome compared with cautery, surgery and Efudex.
  • Liquid nitrogen can leave white spots on skin.

In summary, PDT is an effective, comprehensive treatment for actinic (sun) damage.