Photodynamic therapy is the name given to a fairly new treatment used for actinic keratoses (pre-cancers) and for acne. It involves using the ability of a natural chemical occurring in our body to absorb blue light. This chemical is called aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA).
5-ALA is derived from the breakdown of the hemoglobin found in the red blood cells in our body. 5-ALA is a chemical that, when applied on the skin, targets the precancerous cells and moves into the oil glands. The chemical is then activated when the patient is exposed to bright blue light. The activated 5-ALA will then cause a localized burn in the skin. The precancerous actinic keratoses will usually peel off within a few days of photodynamic therapy. The activated 5-ALA also causes the oil glands to change. This changed oil gland will cause active lesions of acne to shrink and to go away. The oil gland also becomes less receptive to acne-causing bacteria. This treatment has been available in our office for 5 ½ years. Specialists in Dermatology, P.L.L.C. is one of the only centers for photodynamic therapy in the state of Arizona. We have found it to be an excellent treatment for actinic keratoses because it causes most of these spots to go away and stay away for many years and because it can also decrease the risk of future skin cancer in areas that are treated by as much as 4 to 5 times. As a treatment for acne, photodynamic therapy or blue light alone are excellent, non-invasive treatments for acne. In conjunction with other medical treatments, these treatments can lead to significant clearance of the acne with minimal risk to the patient.