Photodynamic Therapy for Actinic Keratosis

If you have scaly red lesions on the surface of your skin, you might suffer from Actinic Keratosis. Although this condition is not malignant, it can develop into skin cancer if you leave it untreated.

“Many dermatologists consider these skin changes precancerous,” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, board certified dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon at Sanova Dermatology. “A percentage of Actinic Keratoses will become malignant every year. This is why dermatologists recommend treating them.”

A number of treatments exist for Actinic Keratosis including cryotherapy and topical treatments like 5-fluorouracil, imiquimod and Picato. “These treatments have variable amounts of downtime,” says Dr. Mamelak,” and while very effective, can be uncomfortable if large areas of the skin are treated for diffuse sun damage.”

But you don’t have to risk letting your disease turn into something more serious because of these side effects when you can treat your Actinic Keratosis with Photodynamic Therapy.


No Need To Feel Blue

Photodynamic Therapy, or PDT, is a light-based therapy that uses a photo-sensitizing agent to destroy precancerous skin lesions. That is, a specific chemical placed on the affected areas of skin and then exposed to light. The light causes a chemical reaction that specifically destroys the sun-damaged cells.

“There are a number of types of photodynamic therapy out there,” says Dr. Mamelak,”ALA-PDT is one type that uses a chemical called aminolevulinic acid and a blue light to activate the chemical.”

The procedure itself is quite simple, but plan in between 1 to 3 hours of prep work. Patients first have their skin thoroughly cleansed and de-greased. The chemical is then applied to the skin and allowed to incubate for a period of time so the skin can fully absorb the chemical. The skin is then exposed to light for about 15 minutes.

The treatment is well tolerated, though some patient do report feeling hot and a slight burning sensation when exposed to the light. After the procedure, you may have some redness and peeling, almost like a sunburn, which generally subsides over a few days. A greater concern after the procedure is extreme sensitivity to light. The sensitivity to light can last for 48 hours post treatment. Patients are advised to use sun protection and stay indoors during this time.

Photodynamic Therapy is highly effective for treating Actinic Keratosis. It has also been used to treat some superficial skin cancers in specific situations.

Contact Us

Dr. Mamelak uses the DUSA Blu-U ALA-photodynamic therapy system to treat patients at his clinic in Austin, Texas. To learn more about how this procedure can help you, please contact us at Sanova Dermatology today.

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