Treating Sun Damaged Skin With Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Did you know it is more important to use sun block in the winter than in the summer months? And do you know the best treatments for sun-damaged skin? In this post, we will discuss UVA and UVB rays as well as Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – a laser light therapy we offer at our medical spa.

The Difference Between UVA Rays and UVB Rays

UVB rays are more prevalent in the summer when the sun is higher up in the sky, while UVA rays are most prevalent when the sun is lower in the sky, as it is all winter in the northern latitudes. Although UVB rays produce burning, and your skin is more likely to burn in the summer,  UVA waves are more strongly associated with skin cancers and pre-cancers. All winter in Montana, the sun sits low in the sky and UVA waves are at their strongest. The best protection from the sun is a combination of mineral sunblock and a hat.

Read More: Why You Should Choose Mineral Sunblock Over Chemical Sunblock

What is Photo-Aging?

Both UVA and UVB waves damage the skin in a process called photo-aging. Photo-aging is the process in which skin cells are damaged by the sun: brown spots, red spots, red spider vessels, rough crusty spots, fine cracks, as well some wrinkling are all products of photo-aging.

Treating Damaged Skin With Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

There is a highly effective laser light treatment used to treat photo damaged skin called Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). PDT is a laser light treatment used to treat photo-aged skin, pre-cancerous skin conditions, and even some skin cancers. In one kind of PDT, a medicine containing phosphorus is applied to the skin before the laser treatment begins: phosphorus is an element that first absorbs and then emits light. Cancer and pre-cancerous skin cells take up more phosphorous medicine than healthy skin cells. When the laser light in the blue or infra-red spectrum is then applied, the phosphorus in the damaged skin cells absorb and emit more laser light than the surrounding skin, so that the damaged skin cells are more selectively destroyed.

An important article in the Archives of Dermatology reported that when PDT with a topical phosphorus medication is used to treat a particular cancer, the laser treatment also stimulates the patient’s own antibodies locally to fight the skin cancer! So, in addition to the laser light physically burning off the the cancer cells, the treatments also stimulate the body’s own immune system to make antibodies that attack the cancer. That is huge!

During the PDT with phosphorus procedure, the face is cleansed and the medication is applied. Several hours later, the individual returns to the physicians office for the laser light treatment, which lasts 15 to 25 minutes. Over the next week, the top layer of damaged skin visibly flakes away, and a healthy new layer of skin grows to replace it. There are a few days of down time after this procedure, as the damaged layers of skin peel off. The new layer of skin underneath is tender, and should not be exposed to the direct sun, wind, heat or extreme cold. But after a week, you are able
to return to your usual routine, including mineral sunblock and a hat!

Photo-Facials to Treat Early Photo-Aging

PDT, without the phosphorus containing medicine, is also used to brighten up and stimulate healthy skin cells in a laser light treatment called a photo-facial. Photo-facials are a popular laser light skin treatment used to treat early and moderate signs of photo-aging, including brown spots, rosacea (redness) and pigmented acne scars. Photo-facials are also used in healthy skin care maintenance and prevention. PDT photo-facials strengthens healthy skin.

During the photo-facial procedure, the face is cleansed and then the laser light treatment is applied, which lasts 10 to 15 minutes. The treatment is a little uncomfortable, however there is no down time. The skin may be red for up to a couple of hours, like a mild sunburn. You are advised to stay out of the direct sun and to avoid extreme heat for 48 hours – no saunas, aerobic work outs, blow dryers, etc. Over the next 7 to 10 days the top layers of skin flake off microscopically when you wash your face, as the new, healthy layer of skin cells take their place.

PDT has been used for decades to repair the skin from sun damage, wind damage, and particulate exposure.

Laser Light Therapies at the Surgical Arts Centre’s Medical Spa

At the Surgical Arts Centre, we can help you care for your skin, whether you are looking for the best ways to keep your skin young or whether you have already suffered skin damage and are seeking treatment. Contact our medical spa today to speak with a doctor, ask a question, or schedule a consultation: (406) 549-6600.

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