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Photodynamic Therapy

What is photodynamic therapy?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a medical treatment that uses a photosensitizing drug (a drug that becomes activated by light exposure) and a light source to activate the applied drug. The result is an activated oxygen molecule that can destroy nearby cells. Precancerous cells and certain types of cancer cells can be treated this way. The procedure is easily performed in a physician’s office or outpatient setting.

PDT essentially has three steps. First, a light-sensitizing liquid, cream, or intravenous drug (photosensitizer) is applied or administered. Second, there is an incubation period of minutes to days. Finally, the target tissue is then exposed to a specific wavelength of light that then activates the photosensitizing medication.

The greatest advantage of PDT is the ability to selectively treat an entire area of skin damage and precancers (blanket or field treatment). PDT generally decreases the likelihood of lighter or darker skin spots (post-inflammatory hyper- or hypopigmentation) caused by routine freezing with liquid nitrogen. Additionally, PDT frequently may facilitate smoother skin and an overall improved appearance, tone, color, and enhanced skin texture.