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Photodynamic Therapy with the Red Light:

Another Great Treatment Advance in the Battle Against Sun Damage and Pre-Cancer

by Joel Bain Herron, MD

In a previous blog, we talked about the “Blue U” – photodynamic therapy for sun damage and pre-cancer. The “Blue U,” which is a blue light treatment, is effective for treating large regions of the body with aminolevulinic acid, which is activated by the Blue U.  

Blue light photodynamic therapy has been one of our most popular and favored treatments for over a decade. It is something we recommend to our patients often. Now we can also offer a similar treatment with activation with a red light source. 

What is the Difference Between Blue and Red Light Photodynamic Therapy?

The red light has a longer wavelength than the blue light. The longer the wavelength of light, the deeper the penetration into the skin. The big advantage of the red light is that for some patients it will more effectively treat the sun damaged and precancerous cells. These lie a little deeper within the skin or that extend down the hair follicles and within the glands of the skin. 

The actual medication used and the process is nearly identical to that of the blue light.  Some subtle differences are that the device for the red light covers a smaller area than the Blue U, so larger areas such as the arms or legs will likely still need to be treated with the blue light.  

One session with the red light is only ten minutes in length, whereas the blue light is sixteen minutes and forty seconds. The red light can treat areas such as the scalp, chest or face. The face is treated one half at a time, so treatment is a total of twenty minutes in one visit.  

How Tolerable is Photodynamic Therapy?

As far as tolerability, both blue and red light treatments are exceptionally well tolerated by almost all patients as long as they follow the one very critical rule: you must protect the area treated for 48 hours from not just sunlight, but also very bright or intense light.  (Ambient room lighting is unlikely to be a problem.) It is possible a small percentage of people could feel a little more reaction or be slightly more pink or flaky following the red light. 

Results are very good for almost all patients, but could be slightly better with the red light for some.

At Northeast Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center and at SKIN Dermatology & Aesthetics, we strive to continue to bring innovative and effective technologies and treatments to our patients in order to enhance their care.  Please feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our providers in order to learn more about this treatment and see if it is right for you.