Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic Therapy Delray

PDT involves light-sensitive medicine and a light source to destroy abnormal cells

 Levulan is a 20% 5-aminolevulinic acid solution, a natural substance found in all humans.

When applied to the skin for an hour or more, Levulan starts converting to a powerful photo sensitizer called Protoporphyrin IX (PpIX). PpIX accumulates preferentially in fast growing cells such as precancerous cells, as well as the sebaceous glands where acne bacteria thrive, hence its success in treating both actinic keratoses and acne. The longer the application, the more PpIX is accumulated. When a sufficient concentration has been achieved, a light or laser beam activates it. This produces a salvo of oxygen singlets that not only destroy the precancerous cells and acne causing bacteria, but also shrink the size of the sebaceous glands.

PDT of any method always makes the skin highly photosensitive for the next 48 hours. This means: full continuous opaque sun protection of all treated areas and avoidance of light exposure for 2 days following your procedure.


The advantages include: single treatment, high efficacy rate and less temporary disfigurement than Efudex and Aldara cream treatments. PDT is very helpful in those unwilling or unable to go through long topical treatments. Residual lesions may persist and require individual treatment with a cream.


PDT works best in patients who have inflammatory acne, not just blackheads and whiteheads. As a matter of fact, a pustular follicular reaction to the treatments has been shown to lead to the most significant improvement.

A treatment course usually involves at least 3 sessions, a month apart. Occasional boosters are recommended to maintain improvement. About 60% of patients achieve near clearance after 3 treatments. 30% require 2 or 3 treatment courses.


PDT compares favorably with oral antibiotics.

PDT is safe, effective, has no systemic side effects and avoids problems with drug resistance.

Patients should not stop their creams. Studies have shown over and over that the combination of light and surface treatments generates superior results than either one alone. Topical retinoids especially will help maintain results and stimulate the pore lining not to plug up again.


  • PDT has repeatedly shown to boost the results of IPL photofacial rejuvenation.
  • Extensive sebaceous hyperplasia.
  • Reduction in pore size especially associated with rosacea.

How does PDT work?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses two stages to mix light energy with a medication called a photo sensitizer. When activated by light, the photo sensitizer kills malignant and pre-cancerous cells. A specific wavelength of light activates the photo sensitizer - but when left un-activated, the photo sensitizer is completely harmless. Once activated, the medicine kills harmful cells within the targeted tissue.

Apart from dermatological conditions, like skin cancer, actinic keratosis, acne, psoriasis, age-related macular degeneration, PDT can also treat diseases of the lung, brain, bladder, pancreatic, bile duct, esophagus, and head and neck.

Reasons For PDT

Medical professionals treat several disorders and skin conditions, such as non-melanoma skin cancer and actinic keratosis using PDT therapy. Actinic keratosis is pre-cancerous scaly tissue that forms in response to UV ray exposure and can lead to skin cancer if left untreated.

Side effects of PDT

The negative effects of photodynamic treatment vary from patient to patient. Talk to your care team about potential side effects and what can be done to avoid them. Rare cases of unexpected skin changes, immune system changes, swelling and discomfort have been reported. The most common side effect of PDT is photosensitivity.

Photosensitivity from PDT

Sensitivity to sunshine and bright lights is common following a PDT session. The area where the photo sensitizer medication was placed is the most susceptible to sensitivity. Some may experience temporary burning, tingling, or redness. It is imperative that light exposure is completely avoided following treatment.

Avoid bright, direct light.

  • Spend as much time as you can indoors.
  • Wear hats, full-coverage clothes, and gloves when necessary.
  • Avoid places where bright light could reflect, such as beaches, snow, and light-colored concrete.
  • Skin treated by PDT therapy can not be protected by sunblock alone.

Questions? Find out if PDT is right for you. Schedule a complimentary consultation.

Photodynamic Therapy is a great treatment for sun damage and acne.

When your health and results matter, contact Feinstein Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery.
Call our Delray Beach office at (561) 498-4407 and schedule an appointment today. 

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