Photodynamic therapy is used to treat acne vulgaris, actinic keratosis, certain types of carcinomas and Bowen’s disease. It uses topical photo sensitizer called Levulan or Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA), a special light and molecular oxygen which destroys abnormal cells. ALA is naturally present in the body and gets activated by light which helps in destroying target tissue cells.
The ALA-PDT treatment is responsible for removing damaged pre-cancerous skin cells, which helps in improving the fine lines and pigmentation. It also minimizes the pores, reduces oil glands which in turn helps in treating acne and the scars. It is equivalent to getting 3-5 PhotoFacial treatments.
Actinic keratosis which can eventually turn to skin cancer can be effectively treated with PDT.
It is also very effective in treatment of Rosacea, especially when Levulan is added, as it increases the efficacy of treatment.
It improves the skin texture, reduces pigmentation and gives youthful appearance.
It destroys the bacteria which causes acne and shrinks sebaceous glands as well.
Who can undergo PDT ?
Anyone suffering from the following conditions can undergo PDT with Levulan treatment:
Actinic Keratoses, Rosacea, Sun damage & textural irregularities
Who shouldn’t undergo PDT ?
Pregnant women, people on isotretinoin or those who have cold, have pacemakers or defibrillators should not undergo PDT
The following people can have some problems when undergoing the treatment:
Taking aspirins or blood thinners
Are tanned in the area of treatment
How effective is the treatment ?
Active acne gets reduced; there is improvement in pore size and acne scars. Skin texture and appearance improves in people suffering from actinic keratosis.
For aggressive course, 1-2 treatments would suffice; however for lesser aggressive course you will require 2-5 treatments. Every treatment is with a gap of 2-5 weeks and additional treatment can be done for maintenance.
Risk & Disadvantages of PDT
Certain people might experience redness, swelling, peeling for 3-7 days after the treatment, depending on how aggressive the treatment is. Some people might not experience any complications. People should undergo treatment only after considering all risks.
Redness & Swelling :
Swelling is commonly seen and lasts from day one to day three. Redness also lasts for the same amount of time and depends on the length of Levulan incubation. Topical products can be used for moisturizing and healing.
Peeling and superficial crusting of skin is seen from day three to six after the treatment and is expected side effect.
An uncommon side effect, which resolves in a week or two, it is seen if person is taking blood thinners.
If laser or IPL device is used, discomfort like snapping of rubber band can be experienced. Aggressive treatment which involves exposure to light source can cause warming sensation.
Wound, infection and scars :
Superficial scabs, blisters can occur sometimes and heal in 2-14 days; however, it is not common. Infection is a very rare side effect, since the skin is not broken. The chances of scarring are also less than 1%.
Although uncommon, hypo or hyper pigmentation can occur, which naturally goes away in a few weeks. People with darker skin are more susceptible; however, it can be treated with creams, peels and further laser treatments.
Maintenance treatment :
The effects of the treatment may fade over time and hence, maintenance treatment is required to keep up the rejuvenated appearance. Sometimes actinic keratosis, acne and rosacea might require additional treatment besides ALA to achieve desired results.
Disappointed Patient :
Results vary from person to person and some might be disappointed with the result and not get the desired improvement.
Post Treatment Care :
Avoid sun exposure for first 2 days
Avoid tanning booths before and after treatment
Use antibiotic ointment in case of blistering or breakage of skin
Use skin care regimen given to you and follow home care instructions