Photodynamic therapy is a non-invasive, effective treatment option for actinic keratosis (AK), mild shallow skin cancers such as superficial or nodular basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma in situ, acne and sun damage. Most commonly, PDT is used to treat actinic keratosis (AK) on the face or scalp but is also frequently used on the arms, hands , neck or chest. Actinic keratoses are precancerous skin growths that, if left untreated, may develop into basal or squamous cell carcinoma.
PDT refers to the light activation of a photosensitizing topical pharmaceutical that ultimately causes precancerous or diseased tissue to be replaced with healthy tissue.
At Premier Dermatology, we are proud to exclusively use the BLU-U photolight therapy system. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more!
How does the PDT process work?
Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA)/Levulan is applied directly to the lesions/areas to be treated by the physician or medical professional. These lesions will become sensitive to the light therapy while the remainder of the skin & body will not. The ALA/Levulan will remain on the affected areas for several hours before treatment. During treatment, you will sit or lie on the examination chair with the blue light positioned over the affected area. Exposure to the light therapy generally takes 15 minutes. During this time, you will wear protective eye wear. You may feel itching or burning on the affected areas during treatment and for the hours following treatment, after which discomfort should dissipate. The area treated can become red and scale or peel for two to four weeks following treatment.
Although the current FDA-approved uses for photodynamic therapy is for the treatment of Actinic Keratosis on the face and scalp, experience has shown that this procedure is useful on other body locations and has several other skin health benefits including increased collagen production.
Current “off label” uses of Photodynamic Therapy (Blue Light Therapy) include:
- Eliminating pre-cancers in locations other than the face and scalp
- Improving the tone and texture of sun-damaged skin
- Improving acne
- Improving rosacea
- Improving blotchy or uneven pigmentation
- Minimizing pore size
- Reducing skin oil production
What are the advantages of PDT?
- Treatment is completed in a few hours rather than over the course of weeks with the use of some topical treatment options (e.g., 5-Fluorouracil or Imiquimod).
- A large area can be uniformly treated.
- Cosmetic benefit is sometimes observed. Elimination of pre-cancers and sun damaged areas can result in a more uniform and blemish free complexion and improved appearance, especially for patients who have had significant sun exposure.
- Often costs less than other treatment options
What are the disadvantages of PDT?
- The topical creams used during PDT can leave a patient sensitive to light in the treated areas for a few days, thus patients must use precautions to protect those areas from sun exposure.
- PDT cannot be used by people who suffer from certain blood disorders such as porphyria
- Temporary skin changes such as redness and scaling/peeling can occur for up to 4 weeks following treatment.
The physician will examine the treated area after 8 weeks to determine if any further treatments are needed.
Will treatment be covered by my insurance?
PDT is covered by most insurances, including Medicare, for the treatment of actinic keratosis (AK) on the face and scalp. Coverage for the treatment of actinic keratosis on other areas such as the neck, chest, arms and hands vary by insurance.
PDT for the treatment of low risk (superficial or nodular) basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell in situ is often covered if surgery or radiation is contraindicated: but again, coverage varies by insurance carrier.
At Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta, we are here to help you with any of your insurance coverage and eligibility questions for photodynamic therapy treatment. Ask us about these options during your consultation.