Photodynamic Therapy (PDT or Blue Light Therapy)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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How do I take care of my treatment area after photodynamic therapy?

It is generally required to check with your doctor for their specific wound-care instructions before your procedure. Often, you will be asked to go home and stay indoors for the rest of the day. Your physician will usually give you more detailed instructions depending on the area and size of the procedure.

Many physicians suggest you shower and wash the area immediately and as often as you would like. Wound care may require gently washing the area with soap and water or hydrogen peroxide two to three times a day and applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or a nonirritating moisturizer like Purpose, Cetaphil, or Aquaphor to the area. Avoidance of harsh or abrasive cleansers is advised. Picking or scrubbing the skin could cause in severe irritation or scarring.

Most patients are advised to try to avoid applying makeup or powder directly on a fresh or open wound unless the surface is fully healed. A nonirritating sunscreen such as zinc or titanium may be applied immediately after the procedure before leaving the physician's office. Sunscreens are ideally also applied twice a day after PDT. It is important to follow your own physician's instructions for wound care.

Mild to moderate redness and or swelling is not uncommon the first day or two after PDT and can be lessened by application of an ice bag, ice cubes, or ice chips in a small Ziploc bag, or frozen peas in their bag. Applying cool packs or ice every five to 15 minutes every hour for the first eight to 24 hours after your procedure may be very soothing. Swelling may be more common for procedures around the eyes or lips. Sleeping propped up on a few pillows or in a reclining chair may help decrease swelling after treatment of the head and face area.

Your physician should be notified of any infections, cold-sore outbreaks, extreme swelling, or other unexpected reactions. Rarely, a visit to the physician's office may be necessary for severe swelling or infection. Oral antibiotics, cortisone creams or tablets, or other medications may be required for adverse reactions.

Your physician will need to know if pain is increasing after one to two days after your procedure or if you are having fever or other concerning symptoms. In such cases, you may need to be seen at the physician's office.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/14/2017

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