Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Southern Dermatology

What is ALA-PDT?

ALA-PDT is a highly effective treatment for sun damaged skin and pre-cancerous skin cells (solar keratoses.) The treatment works via the interaction of a photosensitising lotion (aminolevulinic acid or ALA) and specific wavelengths of red light (LED light.) This treatment can prevent against the development of skin cancers, and need only be undertaken once a year.

ALA-PDT is a treatment recommended by Dermatologists at Southern Dermatology for suitable patients concerned about sun damaged skin, redness, pigmentation and uneven skin tone. It is not suitable for those with photosensitive disorders, infections, peanut allergy or during pregnancy.

There is some discomfort experienced with this treatment, due to the interaction between the photosensitising lotion and red LED light. During the treatment the sensation is described as heat, warmth and/or tingling. Some facial sites may be more sensitive than others such as upper cheeks and nose. A member of our nursing staff is present during the treatment to ensure you remain comfortable at all times. Cool sprays of thermal water and fans can help reduce heat sensation. Post-PDT the skin can feel like severe sunburn, however cooling techniques, creams and advice will be provided to alleviate any discomfort during or after the treatment.

There are two appointments on the same day to administer ALA-PDT:

  • Appointment One: during the first appointment in the morning, the skin is cleaned and prepared with chemical and/or physical microdermabrasion. The photosensitising agent (ALA) then is applied to the skin. The entire process takes 30mins, after which the ALA is left on the skin for four hours before the next appointment. You may leave the clinic during this time, and return only for the LED.
  • Appointment Two: After four hours, you will need to return to the clinic for the Photodynamic Therapy component. This is the application of LED light to illuminate the field of treatment. It takes no more than 30mins to complete.

Downtime following PDT depends on your skin type and healing capacity. The main, expected effects of swelling and redness can last anywhere between 5-7 days post treatment. Temporary darkening of the skin can occur for up to 7-14 days. Mild crusting and peeling can occur for up to 10-14 days.

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