Photodynamic therapy (PDT) combines a topical drug, called a photosensitizer, with a special light source to treat a variety of skin disorders and has recently emerged as an effective treatment for aging skin. Photodynamic therapy may be recommended to treat actinic keratoses (precancerous skin growths on sun-damaged areas), as well as moderate-to-severe acne, wrinkles, visible blood vessels, rosacea, certain cancers, including skin cancer, enlarged sebaceous glands, and psoriasis. PDT treatment has TGA approval for treatment of superficial basal cell carcinomas. It is used worldwide to treat superficial squamous cell carcinomas and actinic keratosis as well as conditions mentioned above.
What happens during PDT?
First, your skin will be thoroughly cleansed before the photosensitizing drug is applied. This scrubbing will help the skin absorb the drug more readily. The photosensitizing drug will then be applied to the entire surface of the treated skin. The drug will need time to penetrate the skin. The recommended period of time is three hours, depending on your skin type and specific condition that is being treated. During the procedure, you may feel a burning or prickling sensation on the area of your skin being treated, which can be alleviated by cold air, fans or spraying of water. Local anaesthetic may also be applied to various skin areas being treated.
Afterward, it will be extremely important to protect your skin from light for 48 hours, as it will be very light-sensitive. Avoid going out in the sun during this time if you can, but if you can’t avoid being outside, wear long sleeves and pants, a brimmed hat and a scarf, and thick zinc-oxide-based sunblock. Apply a dressing completely covering the treated area, excluding light, when exposed to the sun, until complete healing occurs. After complete healing has occurred, a sunscreen may be used on the treated area.
A wrapped ice pack can be applied to the skin for 10 minutes, to ease discomfort, if needed. Bathing the treated area in salted water morning and evening, aids in soothing, cleaning and healing the skin. You will need to keep the skin well moisturised which will help to reduce crusting. A soothing lotion can also be used, please ask us for suitable products.
Are there any complications from PDT?
For the first few days after treatment, you may experience slight swelling, skin redness, irritation, peeling, and weeping, as well as mild discomfort that feels like sunburn, over the treated area. There may also be scabbing and crusting in some cases. If these symptoms persist or seem severe, please contact us. In addition to the mild side effects listed above, PDT can also lead to skin crusting or prolonged irritation and peeling. More serious reactions can occur in people treated for a large number of pre-cancerous lesion, because their skin is absorbing more of the drug.
Complications can also arise in people who fail to protect their skin from the sun after treatment. It is important to remember that the sun can get to the skin even on cloudy days or inside a car. Fortunately, these complications usually go away within a week or two and don’t interfere with the treatment’s results. Treatment may need to be repeated in two to four weeks in some cases and results may be different for each patient.
Does Medicare cover PDT?
Please note that this procedure is paid by the patient in full as Medicare does not cover PDT treatment.
Interested In Photodynamic Therapy With Us?
For appointments or general enquiries, speak with our friendly reception staff who will be glad to assist however they are able:
Phone: (02) 6651 7000
Fax: (02) 6651 7010
Address: Suite 214/ Specialist Medical Centre,
343 Pacific Hwy, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
The Australasian College of Dermatologists recognises the dedication and professional service of its Fellows and their commitment to excellence in dermatology.