Swan LogoBlue Light Treatments for Moderate Acne

Skin graphicWhat is acne, and why is it so hard to control?

There are many types of acne. The most common is called acne vulgaris. Almost everyone goes through a period of acne at one time or another. Just beneath the surface of the skin lie hundreds of tiny glands called sebaceous glands. Their function is to collect and excrete the oily substance called sebum, to keep the skin healthy. However, the tiny pathway for the sebum to escape often becomes clogged, and a bacterium called p. acnes grows inside. In a short time, the area swells up, and forms a pimple on the skin. At certain times of life. this process becomes very active, troublesome and hard to control.

Is there a new way to control moderate acne?

There are many treatments for moderate acne - creams, washes, medications - mild ones and very strong ones. However, your doctor may decide that certain medications, such as antibiotics, aren't rig ht for you, Your case of moderate acne may not be responding to medications or other conventional treatments. It may be hard for you to keep up with complicated routines of skin care. Maybe it's time to consider something new.

What's the Blue Light Treatment? How does it work?

BLU-U Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy IlluminatorThere is now a new treatment available that doesn't depend on medication. It's called the BLU-U® Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy Illuminator Model 4170. The BLU-U is a very special blue light that can kill the p. acnes bacteria in your skin. Treatments are simple-you simply sit with your face close to the light for a short lime at a schedule set up by your doctor, usually a 15-minute session about once or twice per week. The treatments may go on for five weeks or so. It's very safe, it's not hot, it's not painful at all. After some weeks, the blue light can control your acne, or clear it up for a very long period, The BLU-U was cleared by the FDA in 2003 far the treatment of moderate inflammatory acne vulgaris.

What are actinic keratoses?

Actinic keratoses (AKs) are rough, scaly patches on the skin, caused by excessive exposure to the sun, that can sometimes progress into dangerous skin cancers. More than 5 million Americans live with these lesions, and far too many people ignore them,leaving them untreated. This can have serious consequences. Doctors estimate that 40% of squamous cell carcinomas, the second leading cause of skin cancer deaths in the United States, begin as AKs. And without performing a skin biopsy, it can be almost impossible for a doctor to distinguish an AK from a squamous cell carcinoma.

For this reason, 3 major medical groups- the American Cancer Society, The Skin Cancer Foundation, and the American Academy of Dermatology-all recommend that people with AKs seek treatment for them immediately.

How do AKs become squamous cell carcinomas?

AKs sometimes can become larger and thicker .Doctors call this “hyperkeratotic.”These enlarged lesions may then progress to squamous cell carcinomas. Patients may notice increased redness,tenderness,itching,and burning. However,these symptoms can be the same for either AKs or squamous cell carcinomas. This is what makes distinguishing between the two so difficult without a biopsy. Left untreated, squamous cell carcinomas may become larger,go deeper into the skin,and eventually spread to other parts of the body. This results in thousands of skin cancer deaths each year,many of which could be prevented.

How likely are AKs to become squamous cell carcinomas?

It is impossible to predict if an AK will evolve into a squamous cell carcinoma, or at which point it will happen. Many doctors believe that AKs and squamous cell carcinomas are really the same condition at different stages of a continuing process. This process begins with minor cell damage and, over time, ultimately results in the cell becoming cancerous. These doctors believe that AKs occur in the early stages of the process; squamous cell carcinomas occur in the final stage. One thing, however, is certain: a significant percentage of AKs develop into squamous cell carcinomas. Estimates range from 10% to as high as 20% over a 10-year period.

Is there anything I can do to prevent AKs in the future?

Long-term exposure to the sun is the single most significant cause of AKs, so the best defense against them is a comprehensive sun protection program. This includes wearing protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, avoiding the sun at midday when ultraviolet rays are strongest, staying in the shade as much as possible, and wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor(SPF)of at least15.

What is the Levulan PDT system?

The Levulan PDT system is an advanced 2-step treatment for AKs of the face or scalp. The system is unique because it’s the only one that uses light to destroy AKs.

How effective is it?Before and after treatment

The Levulan PDT system has been proven effective in clinical testing. Eight weeks after treatment, it had cleared 100% of AKs in about 2/3 patients. The system more effectively cleared AKs of the face than those of the scalp. Clinical studies did not examine what happened to completely cleared AKs more than 12 weeks after treatment.

How does the Levulan PDT system work?

The first step in the Levulan PDT system is when your dermatologist applies Levulan® Kerastick® (amino-levulinic acid HCI) for Topical Solution, 20% to AKs on your skin. This unique solution is an acid that occurs naturally in your body; it makes the AKs more sensitive to light. This application prepares them for step 2 in the Levulan treatment.

After waiting the appropriate amount of time, your treatment area will be exposed to a special blue light. This light then destroys these AKs.

What will I experience during treatment?

During step 2 (the blue light therapy), at least half of the patients in the clinical studies felt a stinging and/or burning in the treated areas. Usually, this improved immediately after treatment and ended within 24 hours. (Less than 3% of patients discontinued therapy because of this discomfort.) After treatment, a small number of patients experienced some temporary reddening and swelling of the AKs and surrounding skin, Before and after Face treatmentwhich generally disappeared within 4 weeks after treatment.

If you have any further questions, be sure to ask your doctor.


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John M. O'Day, M.D., F.A.C.S. Marjorie K. Stock, M.D. ,F.A.C.S.
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