Did you know that one of the 58 million Americans have sun-damaged skin?
The medical term is Actinic Keratosis (AKs), which is a condition that presents as rough, dry, scaly lesions on your skin. AKs are caused by sun exposure throughout your lifetime. AKs are considered precancerous lesions, as 10% of lesions develop into Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), a type of skin cancer, if not treated.
Patients with a history of AKs need to visit their dermatology provider for regular skin checks, since one cannot predict which AKs may develop into skin cancer. The most common methods of treating AKs are with liquid nitrogen, prescription creams, or with Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), which are sometimes also called “blue light treatment”.
Why should you use Photodynamic Therapy? • Most patients with sun damage make excellent candidates for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT).
• PDT treats multiple AKs in one application.
• PDT can even detect and treat some AKs that have not appeared on the surface of the skin yet. In dermatology we call this “field treatment”. Let’s use a gardening analogy. Liquid nitrogen treatment, performed by freezing each AK on your skin, is akin to pulling out individual weeds from your lawn. Using PDT is akin to using some type of weed-killing material to treat the whole lawn.
• With PDT, there is no prescription to fill and no daily medication to remember to apply to the affected areas.
• The following is the most exciting part… Most of our PDT patients report that they notice a more youthful look and feel to their skin afterwards! Not bad for a side effect!
How do I know if I am a candidate for PDT? Is PDT covered by insurance? • Your dermatology provider evaluates your skin during an office visit to determine whether you are a good candidate for PDT. If so, an order for treatment is placed.
• Insurance typically covers PDT treatments of the face (and ears) or scalp. Other areas may require a prior authorization from your insurance company. Our staff will contact your insurance company to determine coverage and contact you to schedule your PDT appointment.
What happens the day of my PDT appointment? • A topical solution is applied to the affected areas in the office. Patients usually wait between one to two hours to allow the solution to penetrate appropriately. This solution is absorbed by the AK cells making them sensitive to light. After the allotted time, the skin is exposed to blue light for approximately 17 minutes. The AKs then undergo a reaction that destroys them.
• During the treatment you may experience mild stinging, discomfort, or burning sensations of the treated areas. Our staff will stay with you for the duration of the treatment to ensure your comfort level.
• Afterwards, you will experience what we like to call a “mild sunburn type reaction.” For 48 hours after your PDT, you must stay indoors and avoid direct sunlight. Even small amounts of sunlight can reactivate the medicine and cause a severe sunburn. Treated areas may become swollen, red, crusty, and scaly. By four weeks, these effects resolve for most people.
At The Woodruff Institute we take you through the procedure, its effects, its costs, and whether or not it’s right for you. To learn more about Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) or “blue light treatment,” contact us today!