At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, we treat many patients with acne, both teenagers and adults. Nothing can dash the confidence of a teen quicker than a breakout. And, while it may not shatter the confidence of an adult when they see a couple pimples show up, it’s not a welcome sight either.
We find photodynamic therapy to be very successful in treating acne that isn’t responding to topical medication. Here’s how it works.
What is photodynamic therapy?
Photodynamic therapy for acne involves two steps. The first step is known as “incubation,” where we apply aminolevulinic acid (Levulan) to the patient’s face. This is known as a topical photosensitizer, and it is left on the skin for approximately one hour.
Next, we use a special blue light to “photo-activate” the Levulan. The patient sits with the blue light placed close to their skin (while wearing eye protection) for approximately 10 minutes. The light, combined with the Levulan, will create a mild stinging or burning sensation on the patient’s skin. Afterwards there is no residual pain, but the patient should expect mild to moderate redness and some scaling in the skin, not unlike a mild sunburn. This lasts from just a few hours to up to a few days in some patients.
How it treats acne
This photodynamic therapy can be very effective for acne that is not responding to topical medications. The root cause of most acne is overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands found in the hair follicles. In teenagers, this is usually a result of puberty. In adults, it can be linked to pregnancy or other hormonal changes such as birth control pills. When too much oil is produced, the follicles clog. P.acnes bacteria, which exist in the hair follicles, then multiply in the clogged follicle. This leads to inflammation and a “breakout.”
The blue light combined with the Levulan kills the p.acnes bacteria that multiply in the clogged hair follicles. It also reacts with the sebaceous glands to decrease sebum (oil) production. This combination provides long-term improvement of acne in our patients.
Patients with moderate to severe acne typically require a series of photodynamic therapy treatments for long-term success. We’ve found that at least three treatments spaced at three-week intervals leads to significant reduction in acne lesions and overall improvement in the patient’s skin. These improvements can last for months.
Do have a teenager suffering with persistent acne? Photodynamic therapy could be a good solution. Call us at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, (503) 297-3440, to schedule a consultation.