Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): Comprehensive Guide to Procedure, Benefits, and Recovery

December 12, 2023

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): Comprehensive Guide to Procedure, Benefits, and Recovery

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that involves a 2-step medical procedure in which light energy and photosensitizing drugs are used to destroy damaged and harmful cells. Though PDT dates back to 1900, today, it is a modern and evolving treatment for medical conditions ranging from acne vulgaris and psoriasis to age-related macular degeneration and several types of cancers.

This blog is a comprehensive guide to photodynamic therapy, including its applications, procedures, benefits, side effects, and recovery and aftercare.

Types of Conditions Treated with PDT

The following are the conditions that can be treated with PDT –

Photodynamic Therapy for Skin Conditions

    Dermatologists use PDT as an outpatient procedure for a wide range of skin conditions, such as

    • Psoriasis

    Psoriasis is an auto-immune skin disorder that mainly occurs on the scalp, knees, and elbows, where you see bumpy and scaly patches on the skin.

    • Actinic Keratosis

    Actinic keratosis is a type of pre-cancer caused due to prolonged sun exposure or from the UV radiation from tanning beds. If not treated, it can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

    • Vitiligo

    It is an auto-immune skin disorder where your skin develops white or lighter-colored patches. It loses color or pigment as your immune system destroys melanocytes, skin cells that produce melanin.

    • Some skin cancers

    Photodynamic Therapy for Other Conditions and Cancers

      PDT is also used to treat several other medical conditions, including urinary tract infections, acute sinusitis, gastritis, corneal infections, and gum disease.

      Photodynamic therapy damages cancer cells and is used with significant effect for several types of cancers, including cancers of the lungs, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, bile ducts, and some head and neck cancers, in addition to the skin.

      What Does the PDT Procedure Include?

        The photodynamic therapy procedure includes:

        • Pre-Treatment Preparation

        During your consultation, your physician will evaluate the treatment area, inform you about the procedure, and answer your questions related to the treatment. You will be given instructions on the dos and don’ts you must follow before the appointment, such as not applying moisturizer or makeup on the treatment area and wearing jewelry.

        • Treatment Session: The PDT treatment is performed in 2 steps. They are:
          • Photosensitizing Agent Application
          Your physician will first give you a photosensitizing agent, which is applied locally. Then you wait for a few hours to 1-3 days. This period, known as the drug-to-light interval or the incubation period, allows the medicine to build up in the affected cells.
          • Light Exposure
          The provider focuses low-powered red laser light, blue light, or natural sunlight on the area. The type, duration, and intensity of light depend on the treatment area. The light causes the photosensitizer to initiate a chemical reaction in which a kind of oxygen is produced that destroys the harmful cells.
        • Post-Treatment Care

        While you may resume your daily activities immediately, you must take certain precautions to avoid exposure to bright lights or further injury to the treatment area. Another critical aspect of post-treatment care is the management of its side effects.

         What Are the Side Effects of Photodynamic Therapy?

        You may experience the following side effects after PDT:

        • Swelling and discoloration
        • Itching, burning, or stinging sensation
        • Formation of scales, crusts, or blisters
        • Skin infection

        Always inform your provider about any allergies or existing conditions you have. Doing so protects you from side effects such as life-threatening health complications or permanent skin damage.

        Photodynamic Therapy Benefits

        PDT is a popular treatment choice for a wide range of conditions due to its multiple benefits.

        • Effectiveness in Different Conditions 
          • PDT is an effective treatment with no known long-term side effects.
          • The damage to the surrounding healthy cells is minimal during PDT.
          • PDT is mostly a quick outpatient procedure. The operation is less invasive than surgeries for procedures involving internal treatment areas, with minimal scarring.
        • Cosmetic and Dermatological Benefits
          • PDT benefits patients with skin diseases, severe acne, and rosacea. It is also used to rejuvenate skin damaged by sun damage.
          • The procedure causes no scarring and considerably reduces pre-existent scarring or hyperpigmentation.

        Photodynamic Therapy Recovery and Aftercare

        • Immediate Post-Treatment Care: Right after the procedure, you may have to take certain precautions to minimize discomfort due to its side effects and facilitate recovery, such as:
          • Stay indoors.
          • Avoid bright lights indoors, such as reading lamps.
          • Wear hats, sunglasses, and other protective clothing to protect yourself from natural sunlight.
        • Long-Term Recovery and Follow-Up: The medical condition you receive the treatment determines:
          • Recovery time may be between 2 to 6 weeks.
          • Need and frequency of monitoring and repeat sessions.

        The medical condition you receive the treatment determines:

        • Recovery time may be between 2 to 6 weeks.
        • Need and frequency of monitoring and repeat sessions.

        When to Seek Medical Help?

        Suppose you are diagnosed with skin cancer or any other medical condition that is known to benefit from photodynamic therapy. In that case, you can consult your physician to ask whether the procedure is the right treatment option for your specific health condition.

        What Our Providers Say…Dr. Michael O’Donoghue:Photodynamic therapy has little to no side effects. Individuals with various diseases and illnesses can opt for this treatment.”Traci Walters, PA: Follow recovery tips and management strategies to prolong the effects of photodynamic therapy.”
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