Photodynamic Therapy is a process by which a topical medication/sensitizer (Levulan) is applied to your skin that is activated by a specific wavelength of light (IPL or Blue Light). Levulan is a 20% solution of Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA). ALA is a “natural” product found in humans throughout the body. It is a precursor for hemoglobin synthesis (ability to make red blood cells and carry oxygen).
ALA (Levulan) concentrates in pilo-sebacous units that lead to sebaceous gland shrinkage and decreased sebum production for up to 12 months or longer. It is a series of treatments (2-3) and are spaced out (2-3) weeks apart. It is a lesser expensive alternative to Accutane and achieves the same results without the same side effects or expense. There are no contraindications for other maintenance types of treatments after the initial treatments and patients can acquire additional acne therapies if needed.
Before applying the ALA, the patient has a microdermabrasion and an acetone facial wash to allow better medication penetration. After ALA application, the patient remains in a dark room for 30 minutes to two hours while the medication is absorbed. After this induction time the medication is activated with exposure to blue light (wavelength 415nm). Depending on the condition being treated, other lights such as intense pulsed light or red light can be used to activate the ALA. Photodynamic therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective acne treatments currently available with acne clearance over 85%.
PDT is quite safe when patients and providers follow very strict protocols. The most important instruction is that patients restrict their exposure to sunlight or other bright lights for 48 hours after the procedure. Students receiving PDT usually miss a few days of school following the procedure. There may be some discomfort, redness and swelling following the procedure. Sun exposure can make these adverse effects significantly worse. Rarely, patients may experience some blistering after the therapy.