Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the photoactivation of a topically applied chemical by an external blue or red light source. Initially approved by the FDA in 1999 for the treatment of precancerous actinic keratosis, PDT is now used for a wide range of disorders, from acne and sundamage to skin cancer.

Conditions considered for treatment with PDT at AboutSkin Dermatology

  • Actinic keratosis / Actinic cheilitis (precancerous lesions on the skin and lip)
  • Acne
  • Redness, flushing, enlarged pores
  • Sun damage (fine lines, mottled pigmentation)
  • Thin squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma
  • Skin cancer prevention in high-risk patients, e.g. organ transplant patients

PDT is one of several options to treat these conditions. Your physician will discuss with you the available alternatives so that you receive the treatment best for your individual needs.

The science of photodynamic therapy continues to evolve, and AboutSkin Dermatology is involved in cutting edge clinical studies that are adding to the data used to established the most effective, up-to-date treatment protocols.

What to expect A PDT appointment usually takes about 2-3 hours. When you arrive the assistant will answer any questions you have about the procedure and have you review the consent form. You will clean your face with soap and water before the assistant degreases your skin with an acetone scrub.

The photosensitizing chemical, aminolevulinic acid (Levulan), will then be applied in an even layer to the entire surface of the affected area. You will wait in our office for 1-2 hours (depending on the instruction of your physician) so that the Levulan has time to be absorbed into the affected cells.

You will then be placed in front of a blue or red light for an amount of time determined by your physician. Most exposure times are less than 20 minutes. You will experience some pain and discomfort especially during the first 5-6 minutes. A handheld fan will help to minimize your discomfort.

Your skin will become quite red following the procedure. A sunscreen will be applied and post-care instructions will be reviewed. It is highly important that you avoid any sun exposure for 48 hours following your PDT appointment.

Most patients can expect an average of one week of redness, swelling, scattered crusting, and irritation.