Photodynamic Light Therapy (PDT) is a treatment option for people who have certain types of precancerous skin lesions or who suffer from Actinic keratoses — a common kind of crusty, precancerous lesion caused by sun damage. Here at Dermatology Associations, P.C. in Massachusetts, we have found it to be a very effective form of therapy that causes fewer side effects than previous kinds of treatment. There is even a kind of light therapy that can be used to treat acne in patients who are looking for an alternative to systemic medicine.
PDT treatments use light combined with a special kind of drug that contains photosensitizing molecules. The drug is activated when the light source is applied, so both work together to treat your concerns. This combination helps to treat and even eliminate superficial skin cancers and precancerous lesions, and some kinds of acne in adults and adolescents. The procedure is non-invasive and is easily performed right in one of our offices.
There are three basic steps to a PDT session. The first step is the photosensitizing drug. The drug may be topical, such as a liquid or cream, or it may be intravenous. No matter the form, the drug requires an incubation period before the light therapy can be started — that the incubation period is step two. Some drugs incubate in minutes, while others can need a couple of days to be completely ready. Your doctor will discuss the drug options with you, depending on your individual concerns and what is being treated.
Step three is the actual PDT session. The target tissue — the area of skin being treated — is exposed to the light machine at a specific wavelength and for a specific period of time. The light is the activator that gets the drug to work and actually treats or eliminate your skin concern. This occurs because the PDT causes active oxygen to be produced in your skin. That oxygen destroys the dangerous cells, thereby treating and sometimes entirely eliminating the problem.
There are very few side effects with PDT. Skin redness or irritation that is similar to sunburn may affect some patients. Also, depending on the kind of photosynthetic drug used, some light sensitivity may occur. If this happens to you, your doctor will advise you on how long to avoid direct sunlight. This is only temporary, though it is very common. In fact, most patients will develop some degree of light sensitivity, but it is easily dealt with by using simple things like sunglasses, long sleeves or long pants (depending on the body area treated).
If you are interested in finding out if PDT is an option for your skin concerns, call our office today to set up an appointment. We will be happy to talk about PDT and how it may be able to help you.