Photodynamic Therapy

Latest update: June 09, 2024
Medically reviewed by: Jennifer Trent MD, FAAD

Details

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) uses a topical drug combined with light exposure to treat various skin issues. This treatment is most well-known for treating actinic keratosis (AK). AKs are precancerous skin lesions that occur after long-term chronic sun exposure. If AKs are left untreated, they can develop into skin cancers.

Photodynamic Therapy fuses blue light and a photosensitizer drug to kill the precancer cells in the skin, often in one session. The treatment can also remove some skin cancers. 

Photodynamic Therapy can also help treat severe acne and rosacea.  When used as an 
acne treatment, patients will need 2-3 sessions with a 4-6 week gap for optimal results.  It can also boost collagen production in the skin to improve wrinkles and help with anti-aging.  

Each Photodynamic Therapy session requires two stages for a successful treatment. The first stage is the photosensitizer application, and the second is exposure to blue light. The licensed doctor will first cleanse the area with alcohol before applying the topical photosensitizer. The photosensitizer is left on the affected area for 1 to 3 hours to allow full penetration into the target cells. Once the incubation time is up, patients wear protective eyewear during exposure to the blue light for 15-20 minutes.

Patients may experience some burning and stinging sensations, which may be uncomfortable. After the treatment, the skin will be red and inflamed for the next 1-2 weeks. 
Moisturizer can alleviate any itching, peeling, and roughness experienced after the treatment.  Since PDT can cause hypersensitivity to light, patients must avoid direct sun exposure. They need to keep the skin protected by applying sunscreen. Professionals recommend using a gentle skincare routine and avoiding shaving or applying makeup until fully healed.
Anesthesia
n/a
Operation Time
1-3
Inpatient Period
n/a
Number of Appointments
1-3
Recovery Period
1 week
Invasiveness
no

Light Therapy | Photodynamic (PDT) [Dermatology]

Dr. Reagan Anderson is a micrographic surgeon from Colorado. He talks about the prevention of the consequences of sun damage that has started to appear. Dr. Anderson talks specifically about light therapy. He explains the procedures and the goals and talks about the two different types of light therapy. He explains why this treatment works and doesn't cause more complications.

What is Photodynamic Therapy - Part I

Dr. Naomi Simon is a board-certified dermatologist working out of the Mooresville Dermatology Center. In this video, she explains how blue light therapy is used to treat actinic (solar) keratosis. She describes the areas on the body where this therapy can be used and explains why. She defines actinic keratosis and performs the treatment on her patient's scalp. This is part 1 of 3.

What is Photodynamic Therapy - Part II

Dr. Naomi Simon is a board-certified dermatologist working out of the Mooresville Dermatology Center. In this video, she explains how blue light therapy is used to treat actinic (solar) keratosis. She describes the areas on the body where this therapy can be used and explains why. She defines actinic keratosis and performs the treatment on her patient's scalp. This is part 2 of 3.

What is Photodynamic Therapy - Part III

Dr. Naomi Simon is a board-certified dermatologist working out of the Mooresville Dermatology Center. In this video, she explains how blue light therapy is used to treat actinic (solar) keratosis. She describes the areas on the body where this therapy can be used and explains why. She defines actinic keratosis and performs the treatment on her patient's scalp. This is part 3 of 3.