‘Hope in a Stick’ for Sun Damage and Acne?

We have all heard of people searching for youthful skin through skin care products. People often refer to this as looking for hope in a jar. For some, hope may have arrived in the form of a stick. One cutting edge techniques in dermatology is called photodynamic therapy, which utilizes a medication supplied in the form of a stick. You may have already heard about photodynamic therapy, and claims that it treats sun damage, large pores, acne, oily skin, and even certain pre-cancerous lesions of the skin. The great news is that it really does treat all of these conditions! In fact, this ‘hope in a stick’ has practically been a miracle for patients with severe acne. After a series of treatments, patients who once only left the house with heavy make-up on now feel confident enough to go out without it. Others with severe sun damage are able to rediscover the skin of their youth.

What Exactly Is Photodynamic Therapy?

Photodynamic therapy is a two-step process which utilizes a topical medication called Levulan (DUSA Pharmaceuticals) and a laser or light treatment such as Intense Pulsed Light. Levulan is actually an acid (5-aminolevulinic acid or ALA) which occurs naturally in the body. When applied topically, it is absorbed by rapidly metabolizing skin cells such as those found in oil glands, hair follicles, and sun damaged skin. Once it is absorbed, it is naturally processed into a powerful photosensitizer. The photosensitizer then helps to attract the light from the Intense Pulsed Light or laser treatment directly to the areas which need it the most! This targeted treatment is so effective, that it has been FDA-approved to treat highly sun damaged skin which has pre-cancerous lesions. Yes, it actually reverses certain pre-cancerous lesions of the skin!

What Does It Treat?

As already stated, photodynamic therapy is approved to treat certain pre-cancerous lesions of the skin. Since this therapy targets sun damage so well, it is also used to treat the cosmetic changes of sun damage, such as thinning of the skin, fine lines, large pores, brown spots, and red vessels. Skin texture is greatly improved by stimulating the skin to build more collagen. The changes continue for 6 to 9 months after the treatments are finished as the collagen continues to build-up.

Since the levulan is absorbed by the skin’s oil glands, this treatment helps to reduce stubborn acne and to decrease the level of oiliness. Patient’s undergoing this treatment for their acne also have the added benefit of collagen regeneration helping to minimize some acne scarring.

How is a Treatment Performed?

After the patient’s skin has been properly evaluated, the area to be treated is cleaned, prepped, and the Levulan is applied. The patient has to wait 30-60 minutes while the Levulan is absorbed. After washing the medication off, the patient is treated with a laser, Intense Pulsed Light or other light source. The area which was treated may be pink afterwards, and it may feel as though it has been sunburned. In fact, approximately 50% of those treated will develop redness and even some peeling, just like a sunburn. This sunburn response can last from 3 to 7 days. Treatments are repeated at intervals from 2 to 4 weeks. The number of treatments needed depends on the individual patient, and their response to treatment.

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