What is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?

Photodynamic therapy (blue light therapy) is a medical treatment that uses a photosensitizing drug (a drug that becomes activated by light exposure) and a light source to activate the applied drug. The result is an activated oxygen molecule that can destroy nearby cells. Pre-cancerous cells and certain types of cancer cells can be treated this way. The basic premise of PDT is selective tissue destruction. Although the photosensitizer may be absorbed all over by many cells, atypical or cancerous cells take up more of the drug and retain the drug for a longer duration than normal tissues.

What is therapy like?

Therapy is very simple. When used to treat skin cancers and pre-cancerous skin growths, a light sensitive solution is rubbed on to the affected area and the patient sits with it on for 1 hour. This allows the solution to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, which is only absorbed by abnormal skin cells. Shining a specific wavelength of light (not laser) on to the treated area activates the solution, which then selectively destroys the abnormal skin cells.

What are the side effects?

It is normal to feel a burning sensation during treatment, with pain, itching, redness, swelling and crusting of the treated area for approximately 1 week after treatment. After treatment, the area is usually covered with a dressing for 2 days.

What is the downtime?

Healing is very rapid – usually 1 or 2 weeks only – because the surrounding healthy skin is not damaged, and the resulting cosmetic appearance is excellent.

How long does a session last?

A patient can expect to spend a total of 2 hours in our office when having PDT.

How many treatments will I need?

Depending on the extent and size of the area involved you may need several treatments spaced about 4 weeks apart. For limited disease a single session is often sufficient.


© 2012 Newport Dermatology & Laser Associates, Dr. Dore Gilbert

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