One of my favorite treatments for precancerous lesions, called Actinic Keratoses, is Blue light Phototherapy. Many of my patients who have tried Blue Light Therapy have a strong opinion about it. It is a bit like licorice in that way—you either love it or hate it.
Some patients love it because it treats their precancerous lesions effectively and quickly. Others hate it because it can be uncomfortable and even painful at times. Good news for the haters—there’s a new technique in phototherapy that can reduce the pain of the treatment dramatically.
Read on for more information about Blue light therapy and to find out if it’s right for you!
What Is Blue Light Therapy & How Does It Work?
Blue light therapy is an FDA approved in-office treatment for Actinic Keratoses (precancerous lesions). Insurances typically cover the full cost of the treatment, but this varies by insurance.
During the treatment, we apply a topical photosensitizing drug to the skin. This medication is absorbed preferentially by the precancerous skin cells within one to three hours. The medication is then activated by blue light which is illuminated for about 17 minutes.
Once the medication is activated, it destroys the precancerous lesions. Patients can leave immediately after the treatment is over. There are no restrictions on activities, but we do recommend sun avoidance for 48 hours.
Is Blue Light Therapy Effective For Treating Precancerous Lesions? What Areas Of The Body Can Be Treated?
Yes, it is! On average Blue Light Therapy eliminates 40% to 75% of Actinic Keratosis per treatment.
At Siperstein, we will often pretreat thicker precancerous lesions to achieve a higher cure rate. The most common areas that we treat are the face, ears, and scalp. Speak to one of our friendly dermatologists if there is another area of the body that you would like to treat.
What Are The Downsides Of Blue Light Therapy?
The main drawback is the stinging pain which can occur one to two days after the treatment.
On a scale from 1 to 10, the average patient reports the pain to be about a 4. This pain cannot be reduced by any topical anesthetic. The best pain reduction strategies during the treatment are handheld fans, direct cold air, and cold water spritzes over the treatment area.
Ice packs and Tylenol will also help if there is any residual pain after you leave the office. Other reported rare side effects, which I have luckily not experienced with any of my patients, include rashes, swelling, hives, and blisters.
How Can Pain During & After Blue Light Therapy Be Decreased?
I have great news for everyone hesitating to try Blue Light Therapy for fear of the discomfort!
A new study out of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation published in the April 2020 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that a slightly different protocol could dramatically reduce pain during the treatment.
In this new protocol, patients did not have to wait the usual one to three hours for the topical medication to be absorbed by the skin. Instead, the blue light was immediately turned on after the topical medication application. Also, instead of the 17 minutes of light exposure, patients sat underneath the blue light for about 30 minutes.
These two small tweaks decreased the average pain score from a four to a one; and, believe it or not, there was no change in the effectiveness of the treatment!
Speak to your dermatologist about this simple timing modification to get the best Actinic Keratosis clearance while ameliorating the stinging pain of conventional Blue Light Therapy.
Am I A Good Candidate For Blue Light Therapy?
Blue Light Therapy is a great option for anyone with multiple actinic keratoses on the face, scalp, or ears. Speak to one of our board-certified dermatologists at your next full body skin check to get the process started. We will need to get insurance prior-authorization before scheduling your Blue Light treatment.
Now is a great time to get your blue light treatment done before your social calendar ramps up again! Call us today at 561-364-7774 to schedule your appointment. We look forward to seeing you!