Elements Skin Cancer Clinic

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive light therapy that can be used to treat aged, blemished or sun-damaged skin. It can be used on all area of the body and can assist in a range of other skin conditions including acne, rosacea, fine lines, pigmentation & skin discolouration. It helps to improve the overall look, feel & health of your skin and is particularly effective in treating solar/actinic keratoses and other sun damage in most patients.

A cream called m-ALA or 5-ALA is applied to the skin and this is absorbed into the skin’s damaged or abnormal cells. The cream is then activated by a light source - an LED light of a particular wavelength or Sunlight. A reaction occurs and the abnormal cells are destroyed. The skins natural healing process is activated and new healthy cells are produced.

The treatment causes redness and swelling for the first 2 days and the skin is extremely sensitive to light at this stage. Staying indoors is recommended.

3-5 days after the procedure the treated area can be red and tender and the skin may scab, peel and flake off.

6-9 days after the treatment the redness will disappear but the skin may still feel dry, tight or itchy.

After 10-14 days the treated area will be fully healed and the skin will be clearer, healthier & smoother.

When using the LED light source, the process is associated with pain and a heating sensation in the skin. Pain medication & a cooling spray is used to assist.

Sunlight mediated PDT causes minimal pain but a heat sensation in the skin may be felt. Several hours after the treatments, the skin is likely to feel hot and this can be relieved with a cold compress. It is important to realise that redness, swelling itchiness and peeling are normal in the first week after the treatment and some time off work may be required.

If you have a history of cold sores, antiviral medication will be given to take on the morning and evening of the treatment. In the unlikely event of a skin infection developing, antibiotics would be used.

Darker skins have an increased risk of developing increased pigmentation in the skin following PDT.

Photo dynamic therapy with LED light is also used as a targeted therapy to treat certain types of skin cancers – using repeated doses a week apart.