What if your doctor told you that to treat your solar damaged skin you need to spend time in the sun? With Daylight Photodynamic Therapy that is exactly what we would do!
What is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?
PDT utilises a chemical reaction activated by light energy from the sun to selectively treat various skin conditions. At this clinic it is used for solar damage (actinic keratosis) and some early skin cancers.
It works by applying a cream/lotion – either 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) or methyl aminolevulinate (MAL) to the skin. The damaged and abnormal cells take up the 5-ALA or MAL and when activated by sunlight produce oxygen free radicals which destroy damaged cells. PDT can be used on any part of the face or body.
Why treat with PDT?
• Convenient – in most situations a single application will be all that is necessary to treat the affected area
• Effective – clearance for actinic keratoses is greater than 70%
• Low downtime – generally healing has completed within 7 days
• Easy to treat large areas
• Low risk of side-effects compared to other treatments
• Minimal discomfort
What is the process?
Patients will be assessed for the level of solar damage and photographs will be taken as a baseline. On the day of treatment the face will be cleansed and any crusting on the skin will be removed. First sunscreen will be applied to the skin to block out UV rays. This is followed by application of the 5-ALA or MAL. You will then be directed to sit in indirect sunlight for 2 hours so that the treatment takes effect. During this time you will feel a mild hot/tingling sensation. After the timed exposure has taken place the face will be cleansed and moisturiser will be applied.
What to expect after the treatment?
Within the first 2-3 days the skin will become red, tight and there may be some crusting. Once this peels away the skin will remain pink for up to 7 days or so depending on the severity of the sun damage and the skin’s response to the treatment. We will see you back in clinic at 2 weeks to ensure everything has gone well and organise further review within 3 months if repeat treatment is needed.
At TSMP we have been using PDT in other forms for over 10 years. Daylight PDT is a modified protocol of an already gold-standard treatment for solar damaged skin, which is more convenient and less painful. If you are interested in this treatment please discuss this with your doctor to see if you are a suitable candidate.
Dr. Peter Gianoulis
© Townsville & Suburban Medical Practice, 2016.