Acne Treatment: Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy is a non-invasive acne treatment which uses light treatment, along with a photosensitizing agent. The most common photosensitizing agent is Levulan. In treating acne, photodynamic therapy can shrink the skin's oil glands. By doing this, it reduces the amount of oil in the skin's pores, which then reduces acne. This type of treatment is most commonly used in cases of moderate to severe acne where other treatments do not work. Photodynamic therapy also can help with healing scars caused by acne.

The Treatment Process

The treatment will begin with Levulan being applied to the skin. In some cases, a topical anesthetic may be applied to the skin before treatment is performed. The Levulan will be left on the skin for 1 to 2 hours. After it has soaked into the skin, it is then activated by the lights. The lights are left on the skin for 8 to 10 minutes. The lights are blue, and protective goggles will be used to protect the eyes during the treatment. In some cases, the patient may feel some tingling, stinging, burning or prickling on the skin. This is usually not too uncomfortable.

After the Treatment

After the treatment has been performed, it is important for the patient to stay out of the sun for at least 48 hours. The skin may feel swollen and turn red for up to 7 days after the treatment. It may appear that the skin has been sunburned. Makeup should not be worn for at least a week after treatment. Then the skin will begin to feel better and makeup can be worn to cover up any redness which may still occur. If there is too much swelling and discomfort, a cold compress or ice pack may be applied to relieve some of the discomfort, and over the counter pain relievers can be taken to decrease any pain associated with the treatment.

Another treatment is usually followed 2 weeks later. Additional treatments may be needed after that, but most patients will see an improvement after the first two. Photodynamic therapy is not a cure for acne, but it does improve the skin's appearance.

Cost of the Treatment

The cost of each treatment will vary from one facility to another, but each treatment can vary from $350 to $600. This is considered an elective treatment, so insurance companies will not cover it. These treatments can last for a year or more. Since the treatment does improve the skin, future treatments may not be needed, and future acne problems can be reduced.

Photodynamic therapy can be an expensive treatment option, but when considering the emotional benefits it can create for those who suffer from severe acne, it is worth it. The benefits of this treatment can last for a long time. Photodynamic therapy is not usually a painful process and the mild discomfort it can create will not last as long as the treatment it can provide.

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