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Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a relatively new, non-invasive method of treating common facial skin conditions such as age spots, rosacea, and acne. By combining a photosensitizing solution called Levulan® Kerastick® and a light source such as the ClearLight ® or BLU-U® systems, photodynamic therapy targets specific skin cells while leaving surrounding tissue unharmed. Below, learn more about photodynamic acne therapy and other skin treatments that use PDT.

What is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?

Developed and first used in 1905 for the treatment of skin cancer, photodynamic therapy is now used to treat several common skin conditions. PDT combines a light source – either blue light, red light, or intense pulsed light (IPL™) – with the use of a topical photosensitizing solution to target specific cells in the body.

Photodynamic therapy is a two-step process involving the application of Levulan® Kerastick® photosensitizing solution to the treatment area, followed by exposure to a light source, such as the ClearLight® system. Levulan® is used in photodynamic therapy to make the skin more sensitive to light, and is made from aminolevulinic acid, or ALA, a naturally occurring substance in the body. Prior to light exposure, the solution is allowed to penetrate the skin from 15 minutes to 18 hours, depending on the condition being treated.

Typically, the solution is applied during one appointment, and patients return the following day for light therapy. However, Levulan® acne treatment is usually done in one appointment in which the solution is left on the skin for 15 to 60 minutes, followed by 8 to 10 minutes of light exposure. Because Levulan® makes your skin extremely sensitive to light, it is important to avoid exposure to sunlight and bright indoor lighting while the solution is on your skin and for at least 48 hours after treatment. Sunscreens do not protect the skin from overexposure after treatment with Levulan®.

What Does Photodynamic Therapy Treat?

Photodynamic therapy was first used on the face to treat pre-cancerous lesions called actinic keratosis. Recently, PDT has been used to treat rosacea, facial wrinkles, sun damage, and discolorations such as age spots. Photodynamic acne therapy is also becoming a popular alternative to topical ointments and medications such as Accutane® for the treatment of mild to moderate acne.

Levulan® Photodynamic Acne Therapy

Levulan® is commonly used in photodynamic acne therapy and has been shown to significantly improve mild to moderate acne. Levulan® photodynamic acne therapy is often an effective alternative for patients whose skin has become resistant to antibiotic treatments over time, and for those who want to avoid the hassle of applying topical ointments and creams.

Several types of light sources are commonly used with Levulan® to treat acne, including the BLU-U® and ClearLight® photodynamic therapy systems. Both use blue light to target acne-causing bacteria. Omnilux™ also offers a system of blue and red light therapy, which, in addition to destroying bacteria, reduces inflammation and redness associated with acne lesions.

Photodynamic Therapy Cost

The price of photodynamic therapy depends on many factors, including the type and severity of the condition that is treated, and the area of the country in which the procedure is performed. Comprehensive treatment packages may cost between $2,000 and $3,500 for a series of treatments. Be sure to ask your doctor or technician if check-up appointments and post-therapy care products are included in the treatment price.

PDT – Advantages and Disadvantages

Since photodynamic therapy only affects targeted cells, it is much less destructive than many other methods used to treat skin conditions such as rosacea and age spots. The safety and precision of PDT means that most patients can return to normal activities right after treatment.

However, photodynamic therapy is relatively new, and its long-term effectiveness and risks have not been evaluated. Short-term risks include redness, swelling, stinging, and burning following treatment. Although rare, some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the Levulan® solution. Before undergoing photodynamic therapy, discuss the side effects, risks, and benefits with your physician or technician.

Use DocShop to Locate a Skin Care Specialist in Your Region

It is important to speak with a qualified dermatologist or skin care technician to learn more about the use of Levulan®, the ClearLight® system, and photodynamic acne therapy, and determine if PDT is right for the treatment of your skin condition. DocShop’s national directory of dermatologists can help you find a skin care specialist in your area.

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