What is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?

A newer form of therapy that not only is used to treat acne, but also age spots, and rosacea. It is called a non-invasive form of treatment and combines a photosensitizing solution and a light source.

The photodynamic therapy works to target affected cells without harming the surrounding cells. First used in 1905 to treat skin cancer it has recently progressed to help other skin conditions. It is a two-step process, beginning with a topical photosensitizing solution (this is what targets the cells on the skin) followed by either a blue, red, or intense pulsed light (IPL).

The solution, such as Levulan®, is used to make the skin develop a sensitivity to the light, important for the procedure to work, and is derived from the Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA) a naturally occurring acid in the human body.

The solution must be left on the skin anywhere from 15 minutes to 18 hours; this is dependent on the condition the therapy is treating. In many cases, the solution is applied at the first appointment and the patient returns the next day to receive their light therapy.

Levulan® solution has been able to be applied to the skin and the light therapy all within the same appointment. The light exposure, in this case, will only be for approximately 10 minutes.

Due to the nature that this particular solution makes your skin extremely susceptible to light you are told to avoid bright indoor lighting and all sunlight while the solution is being absorbed into your skin and for two days after the treatment. Sunscreen will not help to block out the sun if you have Levulan® on your skin.

Who Can Receive Photodynamic Therapy?

As it was originally used to treat pre-cancerous lesions, what are known as actinic keratosis, there are those who still use it for this purpose. Since then there are those who seek this treatment who suffer from sun damage, spotting on the skin, rosacea, and those who want to remove lines and wrinkles.

Recently those suffer from acne have been turning to this type of therapy to help treat their symptoms over the use of topical medications.

The Cost

In most cases, multiple sessions will be required and the cost of these sessions will be depended on the treatment desired as well as the severity. You may find yourself paying anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 for a session of treatment.

After each session, you will also be required to go through post-therapy and may be required to use specialized products on your skin, as well as continue to see your dermatologist for consultations.

The Pros and Cons of Photodynamic Therapy

There are those that report that this therapy treatment is kinder to the skin than other forms of therapy as it focusses on specific cells and doesn’t touch surrounding cells. Patients also like the fact that the treatment can be completed and they can go about their lives the same day.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that the treatment is new in reference to acne treatment, there is still not a lot known about side-effects that could pop up down the road years after the treatment has been completed.

Some patients have noticed that after they have received the treatment they see redness on their skin, may experience swelling, and a burning or tinging sensation. In rare cases, allergic reactions have been reported.