PDT for Acne
Almost everyone gets acne at some point, usually as a teenager, and acne sufferers generally turn first to tried-and-true acne remedy benzoyl peroxide, which appears in most over-the-counter acne treatments, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. However, dermatologists have developed new treatments for acne that use light energy to stop pimples. One of these treatments, photodynamic therapy or PDT for short, shows promise in clearing skin.
Causes of Acne
Acne results when male hormones circulating in your body stimulate your skin's sebaceous glands to make too much sebum, or oil, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The oil, and fatty acids contained in the oil, can combine with the skin cells your body sheds and form plugs in your pores. When your pores are plugged, bacteria can grow in the oil behind the blockages. Acne lesions include whiteheads, blackheads, small bumps and larger cysts and nodules.
How PDT Works
Dermatologists have used lasers for more than a decade to treat acne, according to the Mayo Clinic. PDT takes this one step further, combining laser or LED light energy with a medication that can make that light energy more effective. The laser or light energy works to shrink the oil-filled sebaceous glands, causing them to produce less oil, and also can kill the bacteria that contributes to acne.
Patients who choose PDT treatment for acne generally will undergo a series of three or four treatment sessions over about three months, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. First, the dermatologist or technician will apply a medication to your skin that makes it more sensitive to the light energy. This medication stays on your skin for 15 to 60 minutes, depending on your acne's severity. Next, you'll remove the medication and undergo the laser or light therapy. The total PDT treatment generally takes less than two hours.
Medical studies show that PDT potentially works better than laser or light therapy alone for acne. In one study, published in March 2010 in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, eight patients received PDT treatments combining medication with laser therapy on one side of their faces, and laser therapy without the medication on the other side of their faces. Acne improved by 52 percent on the PDT side, while it improved only 32 percent on the side that received only the laser treatment.
Side effects of PDT tend to be more severe than those from laser or light treatments alone, the Mayo Clinic says. Patients can experience redness, swelling, crusting or even acne flare-ups after the treatment. In addition, because the therapy has only been available for a few years, the American Academy of Dermatology says it's not clear whether it's effective in the long term. Still, PDT for acne helps clear many acne patients' pimples. If you think PDT for acne might help you, discuss it with your dermatologist.
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