Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a three-step treatment used to treat mild or serious conditions of the skin through the use of a photosensitizing drug and a light source to activate it. PDT destroys abnormal cells that cause actinic keratosis, a pre-cancerous condition, and can also minimize pores and reduce oil glands to treat acne, rosacea and some scarring as well.
During the PDT procedure, a topical photo sensitizer called Levulan is applied to the skin and left for an incubation period of several minutes to several days. Levulan is made of aminolevulinic acid (ALA), a natural substance found in the body. After incubation, the Levulan is activated with a wavelength light source. Patients may experience sensations of warmth, tingling, heat or burning during this part of the treatment. After light activation, the treated area is washed and patients can return home, and most return to work within one to two days after the procedure.
For optimal results, patients may need up to five treatment sessions, depending on the severity of their condition and the aggressiveness of their treatment. Sessions are spaced two to five weeks apart, and can be continued afterwards to help maintain the initial results of the treatment.
Although PDT is considered a safe treatment option, there are certain risks and side effects associated with any medical procedure. Some of these risks and side effects may include redness, pigmentation, bruising, infection and scarring. These side effects are usually mild and go away on their own within a few weeks.