Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is one of the newest, most exciting trends in laser light applications for skin sun damage, acne and precancerous actinic keratoses. It involves placing ALA (aminolevulinic acid), a liquid photosensitizer, on the site to be treated and then exposing that area with specialized wavelengths of light using the IPL. The ALA soaks into the skin. This chemical has a specific affinity for severely sun damaged and pre-cancerous skin cells and oil glands. These cells are metabolically active and will convert the ALA into a chemical called a porphyrin that is highly sensitive to a specific wavelength of light. The IPL emits that specific wavelength, which is absorbed by the porphyrin and superheats the cell containing it. The result is shrinkage of oil glands and destruction of precancerous and severely sun damaged cells. This is like and produces the same results as Blue Light Therapy offered by some Dermatologists.
We apply the ALA to the area to be treated and generally treat you from 7-16 hours later after full absorption of the ALA. If this is inconvenient, we can treat you an hour or so after application and still get results. If you leave the office while awaiting the ALA absorption, you must protect the area from sunlight. During the treatment using the IPL, you will experience a mild to moderate tingling, burning or popping. Over the next few days the area will feel and act like a moderately severe sunburn as the old cells flake off. Many patients compare it to a mild to moderate chemical peel.
Post treatment, you will not need to do anything until the area begins to peel. Then, when you wash the area, do so gently to remove any loose skin, but do not pull off any of the flaking areas. If there are any raw spots, treat them with an antibiotic cream or ointment such as Bacitracin, Polysporin, or, if it does not cause a rash, Neosporin.
The flaking should stop after about 5 days and you should be healed completely in 7-10 days, if not earlier. This is one treatment that insurance occasionally covers, depending on why we do it.