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Photodynamic Therapy (BLU-U)


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is the use of medication (Levulan*) which is activated by a light (Blu-U*) to treat precancerous lesions known as actinic keratosis (AKs). AKs are considered to be the first step in the development of skin cancer. They have the potential to progress into squamous cell carcinoma. This treatment acts by eliminating sun damaged and precancerous cells. PDT with Levulan and the BLU-U is safe, provides low downtime, and is able to treat widespread areas. It’s biggest advantage over traditional topical treatments for AK’s is its ability to treat large areas of the skin and provide the convenience of a quick healing time.

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How is the procedure performed?

The skin is swabbed with alcohol to remove oils. Levulan is then applied to the skin and left on for 1-2 hours, depending on what part of the body is being treated. The patient then sits under the BLU-U light for 15 minutes. The BLU-U is low intensity and will not heat the skin. However, during the light treatment, the patient may experience sensations of burning, tingling, stinging, or prickling of the treated AKs. These feelings of discomfort should improve at the end of the PDT treatment and should subside as early as 1 minute afterwards. Following treatment, the AKs, and sometimes the surrounding skin may become redden and scaly. Patients will want to avoid sunlight or bright light for the next 2 days.

Red Light Therapy

Another way to treat pre-cancer and sun damage involves treating parts of the body with aminolevulonic acid activation with a red light source. The red light has a longer wavelength than the blue light, so it can penetrate deeper 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 that lie a little deeper within the skin or that extend down the hair follicles and 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 will cover 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 U. One session with the red light is only ten minutes in length and can treat areas such as the scalp, chest or face. The face is treated one half at a time, so a total of 20 minutes, but still in the same visit.

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