Rejuvenate tired skin with ALA/PDT
PDT is a medical skin treatment that utilizes a light sensitizing cream and a light source to treat a variety of skin conditions: lax and sun damaged skin, fine lines and wrinkles, pre-cancerous sun spots (solar keratosis). Improvement of enlarged oil glands, enlarged pores and dramatic improvement in active acne is also seen.
What is ALA Photo Dynamic Therapy?
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a light treatment that includes ALA (Aminolevulinic acid), a photosensitizing compound. ALA is applied for 30-90 minutes before a treatment and is preferentially absorbed by certain cells such as precancerous skin cells, oil glands, pores and other structures, making them more sensitive to light. After the incubation period, a red or blue light energy is used to activate the solution. Using this technology we treat actinic keratoses, acne, hidradenitis suppurative, photo damage, and other conditions without surgery and/or medication.
What exactly happens during the treatment?
After the cream is applied, the cancerous cells absorb the cream while the normal skin cells do not. The cream is converted inside the cancerous cell to a chemical that is extremely sensitive to red and blue light. After 1-3 hours the chemical is only present in cancerous cells and not present in normal skin cells. When the red or blue light is shone on the skin the chemical becomes activated and free radicals are formed inside the cancer cells. These free radicals then kill the cancer cells.
By applying ALA before the treatment, we can selectively target the cells we want to damage or destroy, leaving the others surrounding it intact and without harm. This will actually kill off pre-cancerous or sun damaged cells as well as reduces oil gland cell number, reducing the size of the glands.
What does the treatment feel like?
It depends on how long the cream was left on the skin and what type of pain relief you have. If the cream is left on for about an hour, no pain relief is generally necessary. If the cream is left on for about 2 hours an oral analgesic can be used for pain relief.
Side effects following treatment?
Very common side effects are a burning sensation, stinging sensation, pain, swelling, crusting and redness. Less common side effects include itchiness, ulceration, suppuration, blisters, peeling, skin infection, hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation.
What to expect on the day of my photodynamic therapy treatment?
- The area to be treated will be prepped and wiped with acetone to remove any residue that could inhibit the absorption of the PDT cream.
- The PDT cream will then be applied.
- The cream will be left in place for 1 – 3 hours.
- Depending on how long the cream is left on, you will either stay in the practice or leave the practice, but should completely avoid all sun exposure.
What happens after the PDT cream is removed?
- The light will be positioned over the area that needs treatment and you will then be exposed to a red or blue light source for 20 minutes.
- During the treatment you will experience a varying degree of pain. The longer the cream was left on, the more intense the pain will be.
- 1 or more treatments may be required at 4-6 week intervals, to achieve optimal results.
What to expect once the treatment has been completed?
DAY 0-2 (After treatment):
- The treated area will feel hot and burning for 3-24 hours.
- Cold compresses and analgesics will help to relieve the sensation.
- You will also experience a varying degree of pain in the treated area.
- Forehead treatment can lead to upper eyelid swelling and puffiness.
- One must avoid sunlight and other intense light sources completely for 48 hours.
DAY 2-5 (After treatment):
- You will experience crusting, scaling and redness.
- Regular use of your prescribed homecare cream will help to keep the area smooth and prevent cracking.
- By day 7 the area should be smooth, but slightly red. Some mild scaling might still occur.
- The redness will fade over weeks.
- The intensity of these sensations is directly correlated to how badly sun-damaged your skin is.
- Regular application of a SPF 50 sunscreen is essential for at least 6 weeks.