Benefits of Blue Light or Photodynamic Therapy: Boise, ID, Dermatologist Dr. Naomi Brooks
Depending on the type, light could either hurt or help the skin over time. Sunlight, for example, comes with ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can damage skin cells and affect the production of fundamental building blocks such as collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. But a newer type of light-based therapy can be used to treat a variety of both medical and cosmetic skin concerns: blue light or photodynamic therapy. Boise, ID, dermatologist Dr. Naomi Brooks highlights what it can be used for and how it works.
Blue light or photodynamic therapy (sometimes shortened to PDT) is a non-invasive, non-surgical dermatological procedure that can treat a number of concerns, such as:
- Actinic keratoses (AK) or precancerous lesions that grow on sun-exposed areas of the skin
- Acne ranging from mild to severe forms (with severe forms, it may be combined with other treatments)
- Acne scarring
- Acne inversa or hidradenitis suppurativa (a chronic skin condition in which lumps form in areas where skin rubs together, such as the armpits)
- Superficial forms of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) skin cancers
- Other forms of sun damage in skin
Dr. Brooks notes that blue light therapy is particularly helpful when patients either cannot receive or do not respond well to other forms of treatment for their skin conditions. It can also be a valuable addition to enhance the efficacy of other procedures. Typically, blue light therapy is performed as a series of treatments.
At the beginning of a blue light treatment session, the skin may be cleansed with a scrub, microdermabrasion, or a mild chemical peel to maximize effectiveness. A “photosensitizing” compound is then applied topically to the areas to be treated and may be left on for 30 minutes to three hours for the skin to absorb, depending on individual patient requirements assessed by your dermatologist.
As its name indicates, this compound or solution is sensitive to a specific wavelength of light, such as blue or red light, IPL, or those from other lasers. Once this type of light is targeted from a device on to the compound, it is activated and releases oxygen that destroys cells in the area. Abnormal cells killed off by the light exposure and oxygen release gradually flake off the skin, allowing newer, healthier skin cells to regenerate freely.
The photosensitizing solution tends to be absorbed by lesions or malignant cells than healthy ones, so there is minimal damage to existing healthy tissue. While some swelling or scarring could still occur, this is a normal part of the “PDT effect” and usually resolve on their own.
During the light emission process, you may feel some heat or mild stinging that resolves within a day after treatment. In the following days, the PDT effect that consists of redness and the anticipated flaking will follow. Your provider will be able to tell you more about what you might expect and how to take care of your skin after blue light treatment. Patients who experience more severe PDT effect tend to see significant results after it completely fades.
Because treated skin will be particularly sensitive after any laser- or light-based procedure, Dr. Brooks recommends staying out of sun for at least two days and continuing to practice safe sun care in the long term. Often, patients may not realize that even mild sun exposure through their car’s window may be enough to cause damage.
Blue light or photodynamic treatments are localized or targeted to specific areas on the upper surface of the skin, so more intensive treatments may be required for larger tumors or cancer that has metastasized. To avoid the need for more aggressive treatment, it is vital that individuals of all skin types and shades practice safe sun care and report any unfamiliar spots on the skin to their healthcare provider.
If you’d like to learn more about blue light therapy from Dr. Brooks, contact Boise Dermatology online or call 208.888.0660.