Photodynamic therapy is a type of treatment that uses a light sensitizing medication put on the skin or into the bloodstream, which is then activated by light from a laser or other light sources, to kill the desired cell type, most often cancer and precancer cells.
Cryotherapy (use of liquid nitrogen) is probably the most familiar treatment. However, only lesions that are felt or seen are treated. There are many topical medications that can be used for treatment. This is typically done when there are numerous lesions or recurrence is frequent. Some disadvantages of topical medication are the duration of treatment and the side effects (redness, swelling, crusting of the skin), both of which can lead to noncompliance.
Actinic Keratoses (AKs) are precancerous lesions that can develop into squamous cell carcinoma. AKs are one of the most common skin conditions that dermatologists treat. They develop because of an abundance of UV exposure on unprotected skin. The scalp, face, neck, forearms, and hands are most affected. AKs present as red, scaly, non-healing lesions that are often better felt than seen. Because AKs can be a manifestation of sun exposure from the past and present, patients often come to the office regularly to treat lesions.
The BLU-U blue light [with the use of topical aminolevulanic acid (ALA)] is a light source that can be used to treat Actinic Keratoses (AKs). When ALA is applied to the affected area for a selected incubation period, the ALA penetrates the AK cell. The ALA is converted to a photosensitizer, PpIX. Blue light (BLU-U) is applied, then activates the PpIX, generating reactive singlet oxygen. The result is the destruction of the AK cell.
The unit that delivers the blue light can be configured to treat the scalp, face, arms, and hands. After treatment, the skin becomes red and swollen, however recovery typically occurs within two weeks. The benefits of this technology is that it is a one day in office treatment (with the possibility of a second treatment in one month), the entire area is treated, instead of chasing lesions, and once healing is achieved, the skin is rejuvenated almost as if one had a cosmetic procedure. Best of all, this procedure is mostly covered by insurance.