Photodynamic Therapy for Actinic Keratosis Treatment

By Ciro R. Martins, MD

Baltimore, Maryland 21209

Physician (MD, DO), Dermatology


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) treatment is FDA-approved for the treatment of actinic keratoses (AK’s), which are rough, scaly precancerous patches of skin caused by chronic and excessive exposure to the sun.

The process is a 2-step treatment: Initially a liquid containing a chemical substance called amino levulinic acid (ALA) is applied to the areas to be treated and left in contact with your skin for one hour. ALA is a “photoreactive drug”, which means that it is transformed and becomes active when exposed to a very specific type of light – in this case, a blue light.  The ALA is absorbed exclusively by the diseased tissues while not affecting the surrounding healthy tissue. After the incubation period of one hour, we treat the areas with pulses on intense blue light using the Sciton BBL™ equipment with the 420nm filter.

Since the ALA is taken up by the rough areas of skin, this treatment also causes significant cosmetic improvement by giving you a much smother, more homogeneous appearing skin, therefore this is also a very good treatment for facial rejuvenation.

In addition to treating pre-cancer actinic keratoses and aging skin, this treatment can also be very effective for controlling inflammatory acne. This is done by killing the bacteria that are associated with the disease and by shrinking down the sebaceous glands, which re also associated with the development of acne.

Most patients will feel a stinging and burning sensation during treatment, and it can be as intense as a rubber band snapping on your skin, however this sensation usually improves immediately after treatment and resolves within 24 hours or less. Treated skin must be protected from light for 36 hours following the PDT procedure.