Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is an FDA-approved treatment for precancerous spots called actinic keratoses. It is an in-office procedure in which a topical solution called aminolevulinic acid (Levulan® Kerastick) is applied to the skin and is later activated by a light source to target precancerous cells. The PDT reaction is most often activated by a blue light source or Blu-U.
PDT is best for patients who have multiple actinic keratoses and do not want to apply a cream like 5-fluorouracil, Effudex, or Aldara for 2-4 weeks. It has superior cosmetic outcomes compared with cryotherapy (freezing) because the whole area is treated rather than a single lesion at a time. PDT can be used to treat precancerous spots and sun damage on many areas of the body such as the face, scalp, chest, arms, and legs. Although a single PDT treatment may yield excellent results, photodynamic therapy is best completed as a series of treatments.
Photodynamic therapy needs to be thoughtfully scheduled because it has downtime. Patients must remain indoors away from sun exposure and bright light sources for 48 hours following the procedure. The skin may peel or be red for approximately 7-10 days.
PDT without use of the topical medication is called BLU-U therapy. It can be used to target acne and excess oil production.
BLU-U therapy is a painless and safe procedure to treat acne. It can be safely combined with skincare and prescription acne regimens or can be used alone in teenagers and pregnant women. BLU-U therapy is used for acne because it:
- Destroys the bacteria that may be causing acne
- Prevents scarring
- Reduces the number of painful lesions
- Limits acne duration
- Minimizes psychological stress and embarrassment related to acne
BLU-U therapy sessions for acne are performed 2 times per week for 1 month or weekly for 8 weeks. Patients sit comfortably with their face or other body part close to the light for approximately 15 minutes, wearing protective goggles over their eyes.
There is NO PAIN, no peeling, no irritation, and no restrictions with BLU-U light therapy.
BLU-U therapy for acne is not covered by insurance, but the 15-minute in office procedure costs $50 per treatment or a package can be purchased for $350.
Although the inflammation will be gone for the majority of patients at the end of the treatment series, there may be persistent redness where the inflamed blemish was located. This redness will dissipate in a short time or can be treated by other measures like peels and laser genesis or excelV. Daily SPF and skincare is important to hasten this process and keep skin looking its best.