Thrive Med Spa with offices in Chicago provides leading Levulan (Photodynamic) for Acne, Precancerous Lesions and Sun Damage Treatments throughout the Chicagoland area from the downtown Loop to Levulan Treatments for the Gold Coast, River North and Evanston areas.

A diagnosis of a pre-malignant growth on your face can be alarming for many patients. While this premalignant growth is not actually classified as cancerous, it has the ability to mutate into a malignant growth and may eventually evolve into squamous cell carcinoma. If your dermatologist diagnoses you with actinic keratosis, a premalignant growth on the face, Levulan is a highly effective photodynamic treatment that can help rid your face of the growth before it becomes harmful to your health.

What is it?

Levulan is a photodynamic treatment that approved for eliminating the premalignant growth known as actinic keratosis. Photodynamic means the treatment uses a combination of light heat to treat the affected area. Levula was developed by DUSA Pharmaceuticals and uses the active ingredient δ-aminolevulinic acid (ALA). The procedure was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999 for the effective treatment of actinic keratosis, and is also commonly used to treat acne, however this is an ‘off-label’ treatment method, meaning the FDA has yet to approve Levulan as an official cure for acne.

How does it work?

The use of Levulan requires a two step procedure. First, a topical ointment is applied to the skin. This topical ointment is mainly made from δ-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), an important enzyme in photodynamic treatment which highlights the potentially tumorous cells of the actinic keratosis. This topical solution is applied and allowed to soak into the skin. After approximately 6 hours from the time the ALA solution is finished being applied the phototherapy begins. This specific type of phototherapy requires the application of an irradiated blue light for 15 to 20 minutes. This blue light is made up of gamma rays which release radiation into the area of the skin that is being treated. This treatment encourages the formation of reactive oxygen species in the dermis, which attacks harmful cells and leads to cell death. Levulan has few side effects, including skin irritation and sensitivity to touch and light. It is important for patients to take special care to protect their skin from the sun and other elements for up to 48 hours after the procedure. Patients should liberally apply sunscreen to all areas of their skin that were treated for up to a week directly following the procedure. Patients should also stop the use of any topical acne creams and avoid hot showers during this time to allow skin to properly heal.


Levulan has also shown results in the treatment of acne. The BLU-U® Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy Illuminator used when administering Levulan has been known to treat light to moderate acne and is suitable for those patients who wish to avoid taking heavy medications to rid their skin of acne. The Levulan blue light technology kills the P. acnes bacteria found in the skin, which causes acne breakouts. When using Levulan to treat acne patients sit in front of a panel of blue lights for 17 minute periods, once to twice a week. When repeated for five weeks many patients have shown significant improvement in their acne.

Will I feel any discomfort during the treatment with the Levulan® PDT system?

Probably. Although the Levulan® Photodynamic system has been designed for less patient discomfort, many patients do report some stinging and burning, swelling and temporary reddening. At least 50% of patients experienced significant stinging and burning during the light treatment, usually plateauing in intensity at about 6 minutes.

Almost all patients experienced swelling and temporary reddening immediately following light treatment. This will begin to subside soon after treatment and will be gone in a few weeks. The discomfort usually occurs immediately following treatment, rather than in the weeks following. In fact, some patients have reported that swelling is reduced even sooner.

How did patients feel about the Levulan® Photodynamic system after treatment?

In clinical studies, 84% of patients who received treatment with the Levulan® PDT system said that they would use it again.

What happens if I feel tingling during the 14 to 18 hours between the time Levulan has been applied and the time I am treated with the light source?

This means that the treated lesions are reacting to light. Avoid exposure to bright light both indoors and outdoors. If tingling feeling continues, inform your doctor.

If I wear sunscreen, will that be sufficient to avoid exposure to light?

No. After the application of the Levulan® you must stay out of strong, direct light, stay indoors as much as possible, when outdoors, wear protective clothing and wide- brimmed hats to avoid sunlight, avoid beaches, snow, or surfaces where strong light may be reflected.

After the Levulan® has been applied, is there anything else I should do?

Be careful not to wash the Levulan® off your face or scalp and rub or touch the treated area excessively before treatment with the light.

After the treatment has been completed, what should I discuss with my doctor?

Be sure to ask your doctor about the care, cleaning, and maintenance of the treated areas, any follow-up visits he or she recommends, ways that you can prevent sun damage in the future, and the use of moisturizing creams or lotions that might be appropriate after treatment with the Levulan® Photodynamic system.


After treatment is completed, almost all patients experience some temporary reddening and some patients experience minimal swelling of the acne, actinic keratoses and the surrounding skin. Generally, all reddening is gone by 4 days after treatment and swelling is reduced or non-existent after 1-2 days.

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