Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy Overview
Blue Light and PTD are rather recent innovations used to treat 2 common skin disorders that tend to affect opposite ends of the age spectrum–acne in youth and precancers in older adults. The entire technical name is Blu-U Light Photodynamic Therapy, but in the real world this long term is usually abbreviated as either “Blue Light” when treating acne versus “PDT” when treating precancers. While the same machine is used for both acne and precancers, there are differences in HOW the device is used to treat the 2 disorders. The light used is merely narrow band blue light and contains no UV or laser rays.
Blue Light for Acne
Acne is caused hormonal changes that allow the excessive buildup of bacteria. Blue Light kills the bacteria such that any anti-acne regimen will give a better result. The treatments typically last 16 minutes with no associated discomfort of any kind. The number of treatments can vary, but often are given twice weekly for 2 months. The need for future treatments will vary considerably, and patients quickly learn when they need more. Commonly, for example, a person will want to return every few months for a few touch-up treatments. Dr. Degnan is most appreciative of the fact that the Blue Light approach to acne is unique in its drug-free mode of action.
PDT for Pre-cancers
Skin precancers (doctors call them “actinic keratosis” or “AK’s”) are especially common on the face, chest, arms and hands. If a person has up to a dozen visible precancers, doctors usually treat with liquid nitrogen spray which causes a superficial burn reaction, and the lesions peel off 3 weeks later. If a person has many or recurrent precancers, or a history of full-blown skin cancers in the past, however, then it becomes more important to treat with something more broad and thorough in approach (akin to the advantage of using weed killer on lots of weeds, including those hiding beneath the surface) versus plucking only matured weeds out, one at a time. One option for numerous precancers is to use a cream called Effudex that works well, but unfortunately leaves one looking horribly burned for a month (Dr. Degnan has treated hundreds of patients in Palm Springs with Effudex). With the newer option of PDT, however, one appears far less red and scaly, and for only about a week as opposed to a month.
PTD is done by placing a solution on the face that allows the blue light device to effectively seek out and destroy the precancers, including those that can’t even be seen by the naked eye (and therefore would have been missed if using only liquid nitrogen). You sit under the light for about 16 minutes while feeling tingling or prickly sensations. It is important to avoid the sunlight for the next few days and the red flaky skin appearance returns to normal in 7 to 10 days with the new skin healthier than before from both a medical perspective as well as in cosmetic appearance.
Like the cream Effudex, repeat treatments with PTD varies from person to person, and is dependent on the severity of the precancers and the degree to which an individual protects from excessive sun light going forward. PDT when utilized properly, along with regular skin checks, greatly lessens the likelihood of common skin cancer surgeries down the road of life.