Levulan Photodynamic Therapy

Discover a convenient way to treat your AKs

Photodyamic Therapy with Levulan®

to treat pre-cancerous lesions called Actinic Keratosis (AKs). In addition, this treatment can be used to treat and improve the appearance of many dermatologic conditions such as acne, rosacea, acne vulgaris, sebaceous hyperplasia (enlarged and unsightly oil glands), decrease oiliness of the skin, and improve texture and smoothness by minimizing pore size. Levulan is applied to the skin and left on the skin for a period of time recommended by the physician. Then, subsequently ‘activated’ by exposure to specific wavelengths of light (blue light). The exposure time to the blue light varies according to the condition that is being treated, but is usually 5-16 minutes. The process of activating Levulan with blue light is termed PDT.

Less than one minute after exposure to light, there will be a burning, tingling, or itching that peaks within a minute and subsides to the level of a “mild sunburn” in the treated area. The sensation disappears within 24 hours, but the treated area may be tender for a few days. The treated area may be slightly swollen and red. In heavily freckled or a very fair skinned individual, a ‘hive-like’ reaction may occur even outside the treated area. Very occasionally, some patients may experience weeping and crusting.

Following the treatment, Levulan must be washed off the skin and strict sun avoidance must be practiced for 24-48 hours. Furthermore, sunscreens, hat, sunglasses, and sun avoidance is required. The sun avoidance must be strict and it is recommended that one should avoid direct sunlight for 24 hours following the treatment due to photosensitivity.

What are Actinic Keratoses?

Actinic keratoses (Aks) are rough-textured, dry, scaly patches on the skin that are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) such as sunlight. More than 10 million Americans have AKs

  • AKs are often called “sun spots”
  • They occur most often on the face, scalp, ears, neck, hands and arms
  • They can range in color from skin toned to reddish brown
  • They can be as small as pinhead or larger than a quarter

Who gets AKs?

AKs develop as the result of years of sun exposure. Because the effect of sun exposure is cumulative, it is your lifetime exposure that increases your risk. Even if you don’t suntan much, years of just doing simple tasks outside can add up to a significant amount of sun exposure. For example:

  • Going out to the mailbox
  • Play an outdoor sport
  • Walking the dog<

What are some of the risks factors for AKs?

  • A history of cumulative sun exposure
  • Fair skin
  • Blonde or red hair, in particular if combined with blue, hazel or green eyes
  • A tendency to freckle or burn after sun exposure
  • A weakened immune system

Why treat AKs?

AKs are considered to be the first step in the development of skin cancer. They have the potential to progress to squarmous cell carcinoma (SCC). While most AKs remain benign, a study has shown that approximately 10 percent develop into SCC with an average of two years. Since there is no way to know ahead of time which AKs will develop into SCC, it is very important for individuals with AKs to be under a dermatologist care. Frequent skin examinations are the key to the early detection and prevention of skin cancer.

How does Levulan Photodynamic Therapy work?

Levulan Kerastick topical solution is applied to the AK. The solution is then absorbed by the AK cells where it is converted to a chemical that makes the cells extremely sensitive to light. When the AK cells are exposed to the BLU-U blue light illuminator, a reaction occurs which destroys the AK cell.

What can I expect during a Levulan Photodynamic Therapy treatment?

The BLU-U blue light illuminator is of low intensity and will not heat the skin. However, during the light treatment, you may experience sensations of burning, tingling, stinging, or prickling of the treated AKs. These feelings of discomfort should improve at the end of the BLU-U treatment and should subside as early as 1 minute after BLU-U treatment but may take up to 24 hours after the BLU-U is turned off. Following treatment, the AKS and to some degree the surrounding skin may redden, and swelling and scaling may also occur. However, these effects are temporary and should completely resolve by 4 weeks after treatment. Less than 3% of patients discontinue light treatment due to stinging and/or burning.

Before treatment starts

  • Be sure to tell our clinicians if your are taking any oral medications or using any topical prescriptions or non-prescription products on the face or scalp.
  • Bring adequate sun protective items with you to your appointment such as a wide-brimmed hat or umbrella.

After treatment

  • Avoid exposure of your Levulan treated face or scalp to sunlight or bright outdoor light prior to and for at least 48 hours after the application of Levulan solution.
  • Sunscreens will not protect against photosensitivity reactions caused by visible light. Moisturizers may be applied as needed.

For more information on Levulan Photodynamic Therapy, arrange a consultation with Dr. Ana Busquets by calling 412.835.5550 or 724.933.1800.

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