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What is Photodynamic Therapy?

Photodynamic therapy is a new type of treatment that uses photosensitizing agents (drugs that work only after activation by specific light) along with oxygen and light to destroy cancer cells by creating a photochemical reaction. The drug is administered in the form of an injection or as a topical application on the skin. The drug will be absorbed by the body and gets concentrated in the cancer cells. The light helps the drug to react with oxygen which in turn forms an agent that kills cancer cells.

Indications of Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy is used to treat different skin conditions such as basal cell carcinoma, pre-cancerous conditions including squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen’s disease) and actinic keratosis. Photodynamic therapy is also used off-label for facial rejuvenation and to treat acne.

Pre-treatment procedure of Photodynamic Therapy

The doctor will recommend you undergo treatment with Vitamin C or Retin A several weeks prior to photodynamic therapy to enhance the treatment effects and speed recovery time. You might also be advised to discontinue any products you are using three days prior to the treatment.

Treatment procedure for Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy can be done as an outpatient procedure. A photosensitizing agent is injected or applied on the area to be treated and the skin may be gently scraped. This is allowed for 3-6 hours until the drug concentrates in the cancer cells. The light is then applied for 5-45 minutes and the area is dressed thoroughly. Based on the type and size of the lesion treated and the chemical used, the second cycle of treatment may be given after 7-10 days of interval. Sunburn may occur which generally heals in 4-8 weeks.

Post-treatment instructions for Photodynamic Therapy

Following are the instructions to be followed after photodynamic therapy:

  • Avoid direct sunlight for 1-2 days
  • Avoid topical applications of any medications for at least 2 days
  • Use nonirritating moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated as recommended by your doctor

Side effects of Photodynamic Therapy

The short-term side effects of photodynamic therapy include:

  • Swelling and redness
  • Itching
  • Blisters and peeling of skin
  • Burning or stinging sensation
  • Pain
  • Skin infection

Some of the long-term side effects include:

  • Change of skin colour
  • Scarring

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