Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and millions of Americans are plagued with acne and other skin conditions. Jill Waibel, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute, uses photodynamic therapy to treat people living in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Kendall, FL, as well as surrounding areas, with pre-cancerous lesions, photodamaged skin, acne and more.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a combination chemical-laser treatment that causes the destruction of precancerous lesions and photodamage. PDT is unique in that it is both a medical and cosmetic treatment rolled into one. PDT can be used to prevent future pre-skin cancer and skin cancer. The results are brighter, smoother, younger, healthier rejuvenated skin. This procedure has been proven to be effective for acne as well.
HOW DOES PHOTODYNAMIC THERAPY (PDT) WORK?
When aminolevulinic acid is applied to the skin, it is converted to a natural and potent photosensitizer. Illumination with a high-intensity light or a laser causes an oxidation reaction in the treated skin resulting in the destruction of the target. Pre-cancerous lesions and pilosebaceous units (hair follicles and oil glands) preferentially absorb aminolevulinic acid that results in targeted therapy with minimal damage to surrounding tissue.
WHAT CONDITIONS CAN BE TREATED WITH PDT?
Photodynamic therapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of pre-cancerous lesions (actinic keratoses), photodamaged skin (solar lentigines or age spots), acne, sebaceous hyperplasia, and a number of other skin conditions. Photodynamic therapy improves acne by decreasing the bacteria on the skin and shrinking the oil-producing glands.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF PDT?
Some patients experience mild stinging upon application of the aminolevulinic acid and during the light or laser treatment. Most patients experience no discomfort.
The most common side effects following photodynamic therapy are:
- Photosensitivity – aminolevulinic acid is a light-activated compound, rendering the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light. It is extremely important that all sun exposure be avoided for 24-36 hours after treatment. Because it is possible for enough sun to penetrate through windows to produce a sunburn, regular use of sunscreen with zinc or titanium oxide is mandatory.
- Itching/Burning – mild itching or burning of the skin can occur in the first 30 to 60 minutes following the procedure and over the week.
- Redness – moderate redness may be experienced for seven days following the procedure. Nothing should be applied to the treated skin that is not instructed by your MDLI dermatologist. Even skin products that have been used in the past can irritate the skin if applied within the week after treatment.
- Swelling – areas most likely to swell are around the eyes. Application of ice or cold gel packs and ingestion of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, may minimize swelling and are strongly recommended.
- Peeling – peeling of the treated skin could occur several days following the procedure and can be alleviated with the application of a thick, fragrance-free moisturizer.