Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a combination of two proven treatments; a topical medication known as Levulan and pulses of light that penetrate the underlying layers of dermis where they can have the greatest effect on the skin. While both treatments are effective when used alone, their combination can have a dramatic impact, reducing the symptoms of many skin conditions that have traditionally been challenging to treat sufficiently. PDT is available at The Maas ClinicTM, offering our patients another option for achieving a smoother, clearer complexion while eliminating telltale signs of skin damage.

The Science behind PDT

Photodynamic therapy takes light treatments to the next level by applying a topical light-sensitive solution to the skin before light treatment is delivered. The topical medication allows the light to better target the precise concerns it is being used to treat, whether that is the sebaceous glands that contribute to acne breakouts or precancerous growths known as actinic keratosis.

At the same time, the light activates the medication, allowing it to work more efficiently to eliminate those concerns. Levulan is a topical medication containing aminolevulinic acid, a substance found in the body that serves a variety of functions at the cellular level.

When it is activated by particular light devices, such as a blue light, intense pulsed light or laser light, it destroys abnormal cells. These abnormal cells may be the culprits in precancerous lesions, sun damage or inflammation. By eliminating these abnormal cells, the treatment can restore the health and radiance of the skin, turning back the clock and addressing a variety of conditions.

Conditions Treated by PDT

PDT is a preferred treatment for a variety of skin conditions that don’t always respond well to other types of treatment, including:

Active Acne

PDT is one of the best treatment options for active acne today. The procedure works by targeting the sebaceous glands that lead to breakouts. The treatment also kills the bacteria that lead to acne flare-ups.


PDT is an excellent option for reducing the redness and inflammation that often accompanies this stubborn skin condition. While light therapy alone is an e3ffective way to address these symptoms, the combination of light and Levulan produces even more dramatic results.

Actinic Keratosis

This precancerous condition can develop in a relatively confined area or spread to a more diffuse area of skin. PDT is an efficient way to remove the formation of actinic keratosis in both of these situations with minimal damage to surrounding areas.

Skin Cancers

Both basal and squamous cell cancers that are superficial may be completely removed using PDT. The primary advantages of this treatment over surgical excision include less discomfort and recovery time after the procedure, as well as no risk of visible scarring afterward.

Bowen’s Disease

This relatively rare condition is a very superficial version of skin cancer that remains on the outer surface of the skin. The nature of the disease makes it easier to treat than other types of skin cancer. One of the most effective treatments for Bowen’s disease has been PDT, which eliminates the malignant cells on the surface without disturbing cells in the deeper dermal layers.

Sun Damage

Sun damage may not be a medically diagnosable condition, but it can be very concerning, nevertheless. Various symptoms may accompany sun damage, including coarse, dry skin, the development of facial creases and the appearance of brown spots.

PDT can handle all these issues, reversing damage caused by UV rays and restoring a more vibrant complexion.

Procedure Basics

PDT begins with the application of Levulan, which must be allowed to sit or incubate on the skin for a prescribed period. The amount of time needed for this step will depend on the specific concerns to be addressed and your desired results. Once the Levulan has fully absorbed into the skin, a handheld applicator will be used to deliver the light energy into the dermal layers.

Some patients feel a warming sensation or some stinging as the light therapy is emitted, but the procedure is not uncomfortable enough to require anesthesia in most cases. Integrated cooling is used to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout treatment. The light therapy is completed within 10-30 minutes, depending on the size of the treatment area.

Recovery from PDT

Once the procedure is over, we apply sunscreen to the treated area. The affected skin will be very vulnerable to sun damage in the days following the procedure, so it is vital to protect this area during that time. You may also experience a few side effects after your PDT, such as redness, swelling, bruising and discomfort.

You will be given instructions on how to care for your skin after your procedure to minimize complications, encourage healing and produce the best possible results.

Dramatic, Long-Lasting Results

Most of our patients will see dramatic results after just one PDT session, although some will request a second treatment to produce even more stunning results.

That refreshed, rejuvenated complexion will last for many months before any further procedures are needed. If you would like to learn more about PDT, call (415) 567-7000 today or contact us by email.

The information about photodynamic therapy (PDT) was reviewed by Corey S. Maas MDTM. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us using our contact form on the sidebar.

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