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 much improvement can I expect with photodynamic therapy?

No two individuals are the same, and results may vary. Some conditions can improve dramatically in some patients and not respond in others.

Overall, patients with severely sun-damaged skin with actinic keratosis, mottled pigmentation, dull or sallow skin, and skin laxity, may see good to excellent improvement with PDT. There can be improvement of large pores, non-pitted acne scars, and active acne.

Depending on the area being treated and the recommended incubation time, different numbers of treatment sessions spaced four to six weeks apart may be required to achieve the desired improvement and reduction in lesions. On average, a series of two to three treatments are performed. It is not always possible to predict ahead of time how many treatments your specific condition may take or how you will respond to PDT.

After photodynamic sun avoidance for 24-48 hours is necessary.

Where can I have photodynamic therapy, and who performs the procedure?

Photodynamic therapy for skin disease is usually comfortably performed in an outpatient setting like a doctor's office and without any sedation or anesthesia. You may check the www.AAD.org for board-certified dermatologist members of the American Board of Dermatology in your area or www.ASPDT.org for members of the American Society of Photodynamic Therapy. Additionally, oncologists and other physicians may be trained in this area.

Most skin PDT is performed only by specially trained dermatologists and their medical staff. Other physicians, including oncologists, family physicians, internal medicine doctors, plastic surgeons, or ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeons and their medical staff who are trained, may also perform photodynamic therapy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016

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