Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy treats premalignant growths by using special drugs called photosensitizing agents, along with light, to kill pre-cancerous cells. The drugs only work after being activated by certain wavelengths of light. The process also is known as PDT.

Photodynamic therapy can be used to treat premalignant conditions such as actinic keratoses. Other benefits of the procedure include:

  • No long-term side effects
  • Minimally invasive
  • Can be administered in MD office
  • Can be administered in multiple times to the same area
  • Little or no scarring
  • Improved skin appearance, tone, color, and texture.

What Is Photodynamic Therapy PDT?

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a special treatment that takes advantage of a natural process in your body called the porphyria pathway. A topical medication called Levulan (5-aminolevulinic acid or ALA) is applied to the skin and activated with a light set to the correct wavelength. PDT is approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to remove sun damaged pre-cancerous spots called actinic keratosis. PDT is able to treat lesions that are visible as well as ones that cannot yet be detected by sight or touch.

Who Much Improvement Can I Expect?

“Photodynamic therapy is well tolerated, has excellent cosmetic results, and has reported cure rates between 69 and 93 percent” Am Fam Physician. 2007 Sep 1;76(5):667-671

These numbers are for the face. Lower cure rates have been reported for scalps and arms.

How Many Treatments Will It Take?

To achieve maximum improvement of pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) sun damage, a series of two treatments 4-6 weeks apart is recommended. More treatments may be done at periodic intervals in the future to maintain the clearance of the actinic keratoses.

What Are the Disadvantages?

PDT causes the skin to have a sun burn like reaction. Following PDT, the treated areas can appear red with crusting which is followed by peeling for 2-7 days. Some patients have an exuberant response to PDT, and experience marked redness of their skin for a couple of weeks. Less commonly, temporary swelling of the lips and around your eyes can occur for a few days. Darker pigmented patches called lentigines (commonly known as liver spots) can become temporarily darker and then peel off leaving normal skin. (This usually occurs over seven to ten days.) If a patient has a history of cold sores the treatment can trigger a flare. To prevent this, patient can be given an oral medication to prevent any cold sores.

What Are the Advantages?

  1. Many patients find it easier than repeated applications of topical products.
  2. Low downtime (shorter recovery period)
  3. It is often less painful than cryotherapy.
  4. Reduced scarring and improved cosmetic outcome compared with cautery, surgery and liquid nitrogen.
  5. The Levulan medication treats visible and non-visible lesions.
  6. It may improve the appearance of photoaging with decreased sebaceous hyperplasia (oil glands), minimize pore size and improved facial color, texture, and tone.

Does Insurance Cover PDT?

This procedure is covered by Medicare/Medicaid in the state of Colorado and the majority of insurance companies. We will check and advise you of your insurance benefits before we proceed with the treatment.

What Are the Advantages?

  1. Many patients find it easier than repeated applications of topical products.
  2. Low downtime (shorter recovery period)
  3. It is often less painful than cryotherapy.
  4. Reduced scarring and improved cosmetic outcome compared with cautery, surgery and liquid nitrogen.
  5. The Levulan medication treats visible and non-visible lesions.
  6. It may improve the appearance of photoaging with decreased sebaceous hyperplasia (oil glands), minimize pore size and improved facial color, texture, and tone.
If you would like to know if you are a good candidate for PDT, call and make an appointment today. Our caring staff will be glad to consult with you on the best way to take care of the skin you live in.

To learn more about the many dermatology services we provide, or to schedule your appointment at our Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley or Ft. Morgan office, call us today at (970) 673-1155. Want to Contact Us?

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