Is Photodynamic Therapy a Laser Treatment?

What does photodynamic therapy mean and how does it work? Is it like light treatment or laser treatment?

Doctor Answers 4

Photodyamic therapy can be a light or laser treatment

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Photodynamic therapy is when you apply a chemical to the face (Levulan is the brand name).  After letting it incubate it needs to be activated with a light source.  Some physicians use a blue light, and others use a laser.

San Diego Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

Photodynamic therapy is a light treatment

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Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that uses a light source that is filtered for a specific color (usually red or blue) to activate a chemical that is painted on the skin.  Some physicians activate the chemical with an IPL (also a light source) or a PDL (a laser).  

Kavita Mariwalla, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon

Photodynamic Therapy for precancerous lesions and acne

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Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is not a laser treatment. Laser delivers coherent output of light energy at a certain wavelength. On the other hand, PDT utilizes photochemical reaction between Levulan or Metvyxia (both are breakdown compounds of the red blood cell) and Blue light 420nm or Red light 600-700nm. PDT is FDA approved for treatment of precancerous  lesions, i.e. actinic keratoses. PDT can be quite efficacious for resistant acne vulgaris, which is considered an off-labelled indication and thus not covered by insurance carriers.

Photodynamic therapy

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Photodynamic Therapy or PDT is a method of treatment where a chemical called Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is applied to the skin and then activated with a light source. Sometimes this light source is a laser, sometimes it is an IPL, and sometimes it is a panel of high intensity blue lights. They all work, even the sun can activate the chemical (that is why you must avoid the sun after treatment).

PDT is used to treat acne, sun damage, and pre-cancerous lesions called actinic keratoses. It is useful because the ALA concentrates in the target (for example the oil-gland for acne, or the pre-cancereous cells for sun-damage) and destroys it when the light is applied (leaving the surrounding skin relatively unaffected).

Todd Minars, MD
Miami Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.