Depending on the wavelength, light can harm or help the skin. Ultraviolet radiation damages cells and reduces beneficial elements—such as hyaluronic acid and collagen—while "blue light" can be used to reduce cosmetic and even medical problems via a treatment known as photodynamic therapy. Boise Dermatology offers the light-based strategy for women and men facing everything from acne to precancerous lesions.
While light is a key element of photodynamic therapy, it represents only half of the skincare equation. For the treatment to work properly, this light must be applied to a specially made drug that reacts in predictable ways when exposed to the specific wavelengths.
First, patients will meet for a consultation to explain their goal for their skin. By assessing each person as an individual, Dr. Naomi Brooks and her team can determine whether photodynamic therapy is the best course of action and—if it is—identify the specific areas that need treatment.
Once the skin to be treated is identified, a topical solution will be applied directly to the area. This is known as a photosensitizing compound. As the name implies, it is sensitive to light—specifically a wavelength on the blue end of the spectrum. Once this specific light, emitted from a device, hits the compound, the solution "turns on" and emits oxygen that kills the cells in the immediate vicinity.
A common use for photodynamic therapy is addressing actinic keratosis, which are lesions that form due to cumulative sun damage. Without treatment, so-called AK can develop into a type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. When impacted by photodynamic therapy, the abnormal cells are damaged and eventually flake away, making way for new, healthy cells to grow.
Photodynamic therapy can also be used for:
After the consultation to establish photodynamic therapy as the best treatment option, the patient will have the photosensitizing solution applied to the skin where necessary. Depending on the type and scope of the condition being addressed, the solution may need to stay on the skin for one to several hours to allow it to properly penetrate.
Once the chemical solution is absorbed, the blue light device will be used to activate it, shining for a matter of minutes. Patients tend to describe the resulting sensation as a slight stinging.
In the following days, the treated skin will appear red and possibly scaly. It is important to avoid exposing the area or areas to sunlight for two days, as the skin will be particularly sensitive. The redness and flaking should resolve in a few weeks.
For ideal results, multiple treatments may be required.
Actinic keratosis also respond well to freezing via cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen and topical creams.
Available acne treatments include topical creams, oral medications, and specialized injections of corticosteroids to treat painful nodules.