Photodynamic Therapy

Light therapy, including lasers, is widely used in most medical fields. But photodynamic therapy (PDT) – applying a photosensitive chemical to skin that is activated when exposed to a special light source – is an effective technique to treat acne, pre-cancerous lesions, and signs of aging. At Central Dermatology Center, we offer BLU-U® with Levulan® photodynamic therapy.

Our skin care patients from Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill areas trust us for options that are safe and effective. Request an appointment online with a board-certified dermatologist or physician’s assistant, or call (919) 493-3194 to schedule an appointment.

Are You a Good Candidate for PDT?

Photodynamic therapy is an effective treatment for a range of skin conditions. The conditions most often treated with PDT are:

  • Actinic keratosis – Thin, pre-cancerous lesions most often found on the face, scalp, and ears. The vast majority of lesions remain benign, but early detection and treatment is important because it’s impossible to know which ones may become malignant.
  • Acne – BLU-U with Levulan is an ideal alternative acne treatment for Raleigh-Durham area teens and adults whose current treatments haven’t worked, or who can’t tolerate medication prescribed to reduce acne. People with mild to moderate acne see the best results from PDT.
  • Sun damage – Rough, leathery skin and age spots improve after undergoing PDT.
  • Rosacea – Photodynamic therapy reduces the redness associated with rosacea.

What to Expect

Photodynamic therapy is a 2-step outpatient procedure.

  1. The first step involves applying the photosensitizing agent to the treatment area. We do that with the Levulan Kerastick® (aminolevulinic acid HCl), which applies the agent evenly. If you are being treated for actinic keratosis, the topical solution is spread on the lesions themselves. The solution is absorbed. Depending on your condition, you may be asked to come back the following day to finish the procedure.
  2. The second step involves the BLU-U light therapy. You will sit for a specified amount of time – less than 20 minutes – allowing the blue light to activate the chemical agent. Acne treatment usually requires a series of procedures over a period of weeks.

What Happens After the Treatment?

You will be instructed to avoid exposing the treated area to any light for 2 to 4 hours. You will also need to apply sunscreen during the next 2 days, wear a hat, and limit your exposure to direct sunlight. Sun blocks containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide offer the best protection. Redness and swelling may occur after the treatment, along with scaling and crusting of the skin. Some patients experience a stinging sensation for up to 24 hours.

As the treated skin sloughs away, it is replaced by new, healthy skin. Acne-causing bacteria are reduced, and the skin is clearer, smoother, and more evenly pigmented.