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Photodynamic Therapy for Opthalmic Conditions

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 26 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Photodynamic Therapy; Photosensitivty;

Photodynamic therapy is a type of treatment used in the management of cancers, particularly those affecting the skin (with the exception of melanoma), the upper respiratory tract, some parts of the digestive system and now to treat certain ophthalmic conditions, namely macular degeneration.

How Can Phototherapy Help Ophthalmic Patients?

Many patients suffer from a condition called macular degeneration, which can be either described as wet or dry. The 'dry' form of the condition is used to describe those whose macular tissues are depleting, most often due to age, whereas the 'wet' form, is concerned with new blood vessel growth that cause vessels to develop excessively in the macular tissues, in particular the subretinal area, causing visual loss.

Phototherapy is one method of treating this excessive vessel development, aiming to destroy the excessive vessel growth and leave healthy tissues intact.

How Does It Work?

Using light supplying devices and sometimes lasers, combined with specially formulated light sensitive medications, the two therapies work together to destroy cancerous cells or in the case of macular degeneration, destroy the additional blood vessels that have grown. After the patient receives the light responsive medications, the chemicals in these drugs attach themselves to the target cells. Once this has been achieved, the light source is applied, targeting the cells affected by the medications, whereby they are destroyed.

What Is Involved In The Treatment?

Given in two phases, the patient first receives the drugs that join to the targeted cells. These medications can be applied as a cream, particularly in the case of skin cancers, or as injectable substances administered directly into the blood stream as is used for those with macular degeneration.Once the specialist is satisfied that the drugs have had sufficient time to reach their target areas, the light therapy is given. The laser beam or light source is directed precisely where the cells are known to be. Using highly specialised microscopes, the practitioner will direct the beam precisely onto the affected area whereby the light beam destroys the extra cellular growth and the tissues are destroyed.

The process is relatively quickly administered and should not cause any discomfort or distress for the patient.If you have any questions, please do discuss these with your practitioner before the initial stage of the procedure is given.

Are There Any Risks?

The risks using this type of therapy are minimal when used for treating macular degeneration and the procedure is said to be painless with results being apparent very quickly. It is advised that eyes are protected from direct sunlight in case of temporary hypersensitivity to light, but this should subside very quickly.

Photodynamic light therapy has been used to treat medical condition since the 1960's and now experts have developed it so it can be safely and effectively used to treat macular degeneration. It can be used to successfully treat the 'wet' form of the disease, leaving healthy tissues unaffected and dramatically increasing the affected person's ability to see by emitting a light beam to the affected cells. The light acts as a destabilising agent and destructive force.

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