What Is Photodynamic Therapy?

What Is Photodynamic Therapy?

Photodynamic therapy uses a combination of light and chemicals to treat skin conditions that include cancer, acne, and warts. This innovative treatment destroys abnormal cells by using light to activate a photosensitive topical medicine. The medicine destroys precancerous or diseased cells to reveal fresh, healthy skin. 

You’ll achieve optimal results from photodynamic therapy when you consult an experienced dermatologist. At SINY® Dermatology in Bayridge, Park Slope, and the West Village in  New York City, our highly qualified providers use photodynamic therapy to treat skin conditions that cause cosmetic flaws, damage the health of your skin, and threaten your well-being. You can feel confident that your provider has the experience and expertise necessary to help you achieve the best possible outcomes from your treatment.

How photodynamic therapy works

Photodynamic therapy is a noninvasive method for targeting inflammatory and precancerous lesions using a topical medication called Levulan®  that is applied to targeted lesions or damaged areas of your skin. As the Levulan is absorbed, it makes cells in the treated areas sensitive to light, or photosensitive.

When certain wavelengths of light are directed on the treated areas, the photosensitive cells are destroyed by the light and replaced with healthy tissue. Untreated areas of the skin aren’t damaged by the light. 

Conditions treated by photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy is used to treat areas that can be reached by light. This limits its value to treating problems that are on or just beneath the surface of your skin. 

Photodynamic therapy is FDA-approved for the treatment of actinic keratosis on the face and scalp. The condition produces rough, dry, scaly skin lesions that are often considered to be precursors of squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. 

Photodynamic therapy can also be effective in treating other skin conditions that haven’t improved with traditional topical treatments. In addition to using photodynamic therapy to treat actinic keratosis, photodynamic therapy can be used “off label” to treat the following problems:

For some conditions, like acne, photodynamic therapy provides an alternative to long-term systemic medications that carry the risk of side effects. When used to treat acne, photodynamic therapy works by shrinking the skin’s oil glands, killing bacteria that cause acne breakouts, and normalizing the shedding of dead skin cells within the infected follicle. 

What to expect from photodynamic therapy

Your photodynamic therapy treatment plan is designed to target the conditions affecting your skin. Receiving photodynamic therapy involves a two-step process:

Step one: This in-office procedure begins with the application of the Levulan onto the targeted areas of your skin. It can take from an hour to a couple of days for your skin to absorb the chemical. Your incubation period depends on the size of the treatment area and the condition you’re treating 

Step two:  After the chemical is absorbed, your provider shines a light on the treated area to activate its photosensitizing properties. The light is directed on the treated area for between 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and condition of the area to be treated. You may experience a mild burning or tingling sensation when the light is turned on. 

Recovering from photodynamic therapy

The treated area may resemble skin that is affected by a mild sunburn. It may be red and flaking or peeling. These effects can last for several days up to about two weeks. 

The treated area is very sensitive to light, so we often advise patients to cover and protect the treated area from sunlight or very bright indoor lights for 48 hours after the procedure. 

Depending on your goals and the outcome of your treatment, you may need more than one photodynamic therapy session. A series of three photodynamic therapy sessions is common, with sessions spaced about two to three weeks apart.

Find out if your skin condition can benefit from photodynamic therapy. Book online or call one of our New York City offices to arrange a consultation. 

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