Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a medical procedure used to address solar keratosis, pre-cancerous growths, sun-damaged skin and pigmentation. Studies have shown that PDT can work as well as surgery or radiation therapy in treating certain kinds of cancers and pre-cancers. In addition it can be beneficial in reducing fine lines and wrinkles and other signs of premature ageing.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) combines a photosensitising agent, Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) or Metvix Rx (Methyl aminolevulinate) and light therapy to target altered cells and structures. The Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is applied to the area for 40 minutes – 3 hours, depending on the reason for treatment. Then a combination of pure visible Blue, Red and invisible Yellow light is then applied to the targeted area at a specific wavelength of light according to the doctors' instructions. You may feel stinging or burning once the area is exposed to the blue light, but it should go away within a day or so. This wavelength activates the photosensitising agent which creates a poisonous oxygen called phototoxicity, which is toxic to cancer cells or other cells being targeted. This then injures the targeted cells and adjacent abnormal tissue and stimulates the deeper skin tissue.


In most cases PDT treatment is used to treat precancerous skin lesions such as Actinic Keratosis or Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC). It is therefore sometimes called photochemotherapy. The potent chemicals being used in PDT can also be used to treat many different conditions, including severe cystic acne, Rosacea and skin growths like warts as they destroy the cells or glands that cause these conditions. Depending on the wavelength, photodynamic therapy (PDT) and Aminolevulinic acid (ALA), can also be used for skin rejuvenation to soften fine lines and improve skin tone, or after various peel treatments to reduce inflammation.


Any pigmentation in the area may appear to darken initially and then lighten from 14 days following the treatment. The treated area may become red and scale, but this should heal in 4 weeks. After the treatment, one must avoid sunlight and other intense light sources completely for 48 hours to protect skin, help the treatment area heal and prevent any scaring. This includes indoor lights and natural sunlight.

A follow-up appointment is then scheduled with the doctor to monitor the progress of healing, and the result of the treatment. In cases where a lesion doesn't respond to the first treatment, it can be treated again 8 weeks later. Majority of clients have at least two treatments.

FAQ: Photodynamic therapy

1What is Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) & Photodynamic therapy (PDT)?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that combines Light Therapy with a photosensitising solution to improve sun damage, pre-cancerous cells (actinic keratosis), severe acne, numerous viral warts and sebaceous hyperplasia in a non-invasive, cosmetically enhancing way.

The photosensitising solution is 20% aminolevulinic acid (ALA). This is applied to the surface of the skin to be treated, where it is absorbed preferentially by abnormal or pre-cancerous skin cells as well as oil glands and pores, making these more sensitive to laser or light.

Following a predetermined period of having the Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) on the skin, the light therapy is used to activate the solution. This combination therapy leads to a destruction or reduction of abnormal cells and excessive oil gland cells and results in healthier, smoother and clearer skin. By applying Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) before the light therapy treatment, we can selectively target the cells we want to damage or destroy, leaving the others surrounding it intact and without harm. This treatment kills off pre-cancerous or sun-damaged cells, as well as reduces oil gland cell numbers, and reducing the size of the glands.

The majority of people will have mild redness and minimal discomfort, but about 5% will experience "sunburn" like reaction in which they are uncomfortable for 24-48 hours, and the skin looks red and tender and peels for 2-5 days. This usually happens when there is severe sun damage with multiple actinic keratoses present.

Complete healing does take place even in these cases, and no scarring has been reported. Avoidance of this reaction can be greatly enhanced by COMPLETELY AVOIDING ANY SUNLIGHT FOR 48 HOURS. If any exposure is necessary, cover up with scarves, hats and thickly applying zinc oxide to the treated area is advised.

A Post Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) & Photodynamic therapy (PDT) lotion is blended for you at our local pharmacy and must be applied often until the skin has healed completely. Do not expose the area to sunlight even briefly during this time. You may resume your normal skincare after the peeling stops or immediately if there is no peeling. Make-up may be applied immediately after your treatment.

2What are the costs involved?
The cost depends on the size of the area treated. The Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is from R250 and the Photodynamic therapy (PDT) from R600 upwards. This can be submitted to medical aid but is not submitted by Winelands Aesthetic, Medical & Dental.
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