Photodynamic Therapy

What is photodynamic therapy?

Photodynamic therapy is a type of treatment which uses photosensitising agents (drugs that work after being activated 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 topical application to the skin. It is absorbed by the body and gets concentrated in the cancer cells. Light helps the drug react with oxygen to form an agent that kills the cancer cells.

What does photodynamic therapy treat?

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.

What preparation is necessary before the procedure?

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

How is the procedure performed?

Photodynamic therapy can be done as an outpatient procedure. A photosensitising 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. 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, a second cycle of treatment may be given after 7 to 10 days. You may experience a sunburn effect which generally heals in 4-8 weeks.

What are the post-treatment instructions?

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 non-irritating moisturisers to keep your skin hydrated as recommended by your doctor

Does the treatment have any side effects?

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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