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What is Levulan?

Updated on June 27, 2010

Levulan is a skin therapy treatment that combines the application of aminolevulinic acid and Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). It is used to treat actinic keratoses (AKs), which refers to rough-textured or dry skin patches than can turn into skin cancer. Levulan uses a light activated drug therapy to eliminate AKs and therefore reduce the patient’s risk of contracting skin cancer. Levulan skin treatments also combat wrinkles, lines, clogged pores, acne, sun damage, and photo damage.

The process consists of two parts. First, a nurse applies Levulan Kerastick Topical Solution to AK areas of the skin. AK cells absorb this solution which then renders them extremely sensitive to light. Next, 1-2 hours after the Levulan Kerastick is applied, these cells are exposed to a blue light illuminator which causes a reaction that destroys the AK cells. Patients may be given an anesthetic topical cream before the light is applied and goggles to wear for protection of the eyes during treatment. This process also heals sun damaged skin, moderate to severe cystic acne and potentially superficial skin cancers.

Levulan is also an effective treatment against acne. The PDT process deactivates bacteria that trigger acne, exfoliates the skin to unclog pores, and inhibits the sebaceous glands in the skin which cause acne. For the many teens who suffer from cystic acne, which creates painful inflamed lumps deep in the skin and often leaves long-lasting facial scars, Levulan can bring relief with very little risk. Levulan is a safer alternative to Accutane in treating acne, since Levulan has much fewer severe side effects.

Many patients choose Levulan because it requires no prescription or daily medication, causes no scarring, and has a very low recovery period. Generally, patients should avoid exposure to sunlight for 40 hours following treatment.

Side effects of Levulan can include tingling, stinging, prickling, or burning of the treated areas—though these effects should end within 24 hours of treatment. After blue light treatment, skin surrounding the affected area will redden and possibly swell and crust for the following 3-7 days. This will cause some discomfort but should not be very painful. These side effects should peak the day after the blue light treatment. Other potential side effects may include scaling, itching, or changes in skin color. Patients should not be treated with Levulan if they have demonstrated skin sensitivity to blue light or allergies to chemicals called porphyrins, as these conditions may cause allergic reactions.

Image Credit: Martina Rathjen, Flickr

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  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 

    8 years ago

    Thank you for the GREAT information!! I thought I was pretty much up on the 'latest and greatest' but had not even heard of this one!! I will check it out with my plastic surgeon!! Thank you so much!! Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

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