Photodynamic Therapy is a treatment using BLU-U light to kill precancerous lesions before they get the chance to turn into cancer. Before Photodynamic Therapy or PDT technology, it was necessary to use cryotherapy to freeze off precancerous lesions. Cryotherapy can be a painful and arduous process if there are various, or large at-risk areas of skin to be treated. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) allows your dermatologist treat a whole area of skin more easily than ever before.
About Photodynamic Therapy
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is usually for people who have significant sun damage or other skin damage putting them at risk for skin cancer. PDT is used specifically to treat Actinic Keratoses (AKs). Your dermatologist will determine if PDT is right for you by assessing whether or not Actinic Keratoses (AKs) are present. If you are concerned about skin cancer, or have areas that have had significant unprotected sun exposure, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to determine if PDT is necessary. In the meantime, make sure to wear sunscreen!
What is an Actinic Keratoses?
Actinic Keratoses (AKs) develop as the result of years of sun exposure. Because the effect of sun exposure is cumulative, it is your lifetime exposure that increases your risk. Even if you did not suntan frequently, years of just doing simple tasks outside can add up to a significant amount of sun exposure.
Photodynamic Therapy: The Procedure
Photodynamic therapy uses BLU-U light to destroy the abnormal growth of precancerous cells. The PDT appointment involves two parts. First, the nurse will apply a colorless clear gel over the treatment area. The gel is applied to the treatment area 1-2 hours the BLU-U light. It is possible that the doctor might recommend the gel to be applied the night before a PDT light treatment. The second part of a PDT treatment is the BLU-U light application. The faster acting or precancerous cells convert the gel into a compound very sensitive to light. This allows the concentrated beams of light during the PDT to destroy the precancerous cells and leave the normal cells intact.
It is recommended to stay out of direct sunlight for at least 1-2 days after treatment. Post treatment area will be much more sensitive to light.
Common Concerns and Questions about Photodynamic Therapy
What will my skin look like after Photodynamic (PDT) Therapy?
After the initial period of recovery, you should notice the skin’s rough spots to be diminished, and the skin will be smoother. While these cosmetic improvements are pleasant side effects of the procedure, PDT is meant to be a medical procedure; used for cases of removing precancerous lesions. If you are interested in improving your skin tone or texture we have many better options including Fraxel or Ulthera.
Does PDT Hurt?
PDT is generally not painful. The treatment applies concentrated light to the skin. PDT is not a laser, therefore, it is less invasive. The combination of the medicine applied, and the concentrated light in just the right spectrum destroys the cells, not the actual light itself. Skin will often be tighter, and have slight dryness after treatment similar to a sunburn. The process is by far the most comfortable, and best on the market for treating precancerous lesions, as the previous alternative of cryotherapy may be painful.
Is PDT covered by insurance?
Yes, PDT is covered by insurance in most cases. However, it does depend on your insurance so please contact your insurance company.
What is the typical downtime after photodynamic therapy?
You will appear sunburned for about a week, then your skin return to normal. There may be some peeling and flaking 2-3 days after treatment. This is similar to peeling from a sunburn.
How to Prepare for PDT
Generally, we do not make any recommendations for PDT pretreatment. However, we do recommend to be mindful of your sun exposure, and not arrive to your appointment sunburned.
PDT Post Treatment Care
We recommend staying out of direct sunlight as much as possible for 1-2 days after the procedure. If you are going to be in the sun we recommend covering up the treated area with clothing or a wide brimmed hat. Also be mindful of being in intense indoor lighting.
How often should I have PDT?
We will schedule two PDT appointments for you. The first appointment, and a second appointment 8 weeks later. The doctor will advise you about any follow-up visits. Generally, patients with at risk skin have PDT once every 1-2 years for maintenance.
If you are worried about areas you know have had unprotected sun exposure, contact us about getting an evaluation for precancerous lesions.