What is Blue Light Therapy and who is a candidate for this procedure?
Blue light is a form of photodynamic therapy that has been approved by the FDA as an acne treatment. It has also been found to effectively repair skin damage from the sun and reduce visible signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.
Blue light treatment uses a high intensity, narrow-band blue light in conjunction with drugs that enhance the skin’s photosensitivity to heighten the effect. The therapy in non-invasive and generally requires little or no recovery time afterward. Blue light therapy may be used on patients of all ages who are in good health and want to reduce the visual signs of aging on their skin.
Patients with fair skin tend to respond better to treatment than those with darker skin or skin that is sensitive to light and burns easily. Blue light therapy is generally not used on patients who have had reactions to photosensitizing drugs in the past.
What benefits may be expected from Blue Light Therapy?
At the beginning of the last century, a form of light therapy was introduced for the treatment of some types of cancer. Prior to this, photodynamic light therapy was refined so that targeted many different conditions, including some cancers and precancerous growths, became possible.
The FDA recently approved blue light therapy for acne treatment because it effectively kills p. acne, the bacterium that causes breakouts. Other benefits of blue light therapy include:
- Treatment of some lung cancer and esophageal cancer
- Removal and treatment of some skin cancers
- Removal of pre-skin cancers known as actinic keratosis
- Treatment of acne
- Treatment of other skin conditions, such as rosacea and psoriasis
- Anti-aging treatment to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Skin rejuvenation
Blue light therapy is not recommended for use on birthmarks or moles, since it has not been proven effective in these situations.
How is the procedure performed and what is the recovery like?
A blue light therapy treatment consists of three basic steps: administration of the photosensitizing medication, an incubation period to allow the medication to take effect and light activation. The time of incubation will depend on the type of medication used and the purpose of the treatment, and can range from a few minutes to a few hours.
When the incubation period is complete, the patient will be taken to the light activation room for treatment. During the treatment, some patients report warm sensations, burning or stinging. Fans may be used to keep patients cool and comfortable during the session. The session length will vary depending on the condition being treated and the patient’s needs. Once the session is over, patients are generally instructed to apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses home to protect vulnerable skin.
Recovery after a blue light treatment is relatively quick and painless. After the procedure some patients may experience a residual burning sensation, redness or swelling that generally lasts no more than a few days. While patients may return to normal activities right away in most cases, it is absolutely critical to avoid exposure to direct sunlight for the first day or two.
Some patients may only require one treatment for satisfactory results to take effect, while others may need more treatment sessions to achieve the desired results. Treatments may need to be repeated after a few months to maintain the benefits.
What risks may be associated with Blue Light Therapy?
Side effects may include burning, tingling or swelling around the treated area. Allergic reactions to photosensitizing medications may also occur which should be thoroughly discussed with the practicing physician to determine any existing allergies. Blue light therapy is a fairly new procedure option and the long term risks which may be associated with it have not been fully assessed at this time.
As with any procedure, risks can be greatly reduced by working with a physician who is experienced with blue light therapy. Patients should follow physician’s instructions both before the procedure and during the recovery process. These instructions may include avoiding certain medications, not smoking and protecting the skin from the sun for the appropriate period of time.
How much does Blue Light Therapy cost?
The average cost for a blue light treatment session is $50-$150, depending on the location of the clinic and the area being treated. Some patients may require more than one session and repeat sessions to achieve desired results. Health insurance agencies do not typically cover cosmetic procedures and some clinics may offer financing options which should be discussed during a consultation.
Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.
By Anti-Aging.org Staff
Updated: December 8, 2008