Photo Dynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic Therapy (PTD) is an effective skin treatment that combines light, oxygen and medication to destroy abnormal skin cells and create a brighter, more even complexion. It can be used to treat various skin cancers, acne, pigmentation, wrinkles and more.


Photodynamic Therapy Explained

Photodynamic Therapy, also known as PDT treatment, is an effective treatment that combines light with photosensitising agents to destroy abnormal cells and reverse skin damage caused by prolonged sun exposure and acne. The most common photosensitizer used is Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA – PDT) in conjunction with a red light or blue light. Together, they can be used as a skin cancer treatment that targets pre-cancerous cells and cancer cells evident in skin conditions like Actinic Keratosis, Squamous Cell Carcinomas (Bowen’s Disease)and Superficial Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC).

The Science Behind Photodynamic Therapy

The way that PDT works is by combining photosensitising agents with oxygen and a light source to create a photochemical reaction that destroys cancer cells. These agents are drugs that can be topical, oral or intravenous. Once in the body, they activate through light exposure at a specific wavelength and produce reactive oxygen species which lead to the death of cells in the treated area. Either a red light or a blue light can be used.

Photodynamic Therapy in Treating Skin Conditions

PDT is most commonly used to treat different types of skin cancer and skin conditions caused by sunburn and sun exposure, such as sunspots, pigmentation and non-melanoma skin cancers. Clinical trials show that it can be used to treat esophagus and lung cancer.

Acne can also be effectively treated using this therapy with red light being used for severe cases and blue light being used for mild to moderate cases. With ongoing sessions, PDT can shrink oil glands, kill bacteria, reduce inflammation and remove red bumps.

Understanding the Procedure

Photo Dynamic Therapy (PDT) is a relatively new skin therapy that allows topically applied medications such as ALA (Alfa Levulinic Acid) to target diseased and damaged areas of the skin when activated by a blue or red light of a special wavelength. The medication eliminates the diseased and damaged abnormal skin cells but not the normal skin cells.

What to Expect During Photodynamic Therapy

This procedure can be performed on any part of the body where a light source can reach, such as the skin, mouth and eyes.

Generally, the dermatologist will begin by scraping the treatment area to remove any dry skin so that they can apply the photosensitising agent. A waiting period of 3-6 hours is required for the drug to concentrate in the cells.

Next, a laser is shone onto the area for between 5-45 minutes. The skin is then covered with a bandage until the next treatment.

Photodynamic Therapy for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

This therapy has also been shown to be effective in treating age-related eye conditions, such as macular degeneration. It works by injecting the patient with a photosensitising agent in the arm which will collect in the abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula. A laser is then shone into the eye to activate the drug which then creates blood clots in the vessels to seal them and prevent them from degrading vision further.

How Photodynamic Therapy Works Against Acne

PDT is an emerging treatment for acne that is proving effective. It works by shrinking the oil glands responsible for acne breakouts. A red or blue light is shone onto the skin to activate the medicine and kill any bacteria while shrinking sebaceous glands. The result is a more even skin texture with reduced inflammation, smaller pores and less future breakouts.

Post-Treatment Care: Maximising the Benefits of Photodynamic Therapy

You can make the most of your PDT treatment by following these simple steps:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible for the first 3-4 days
  • Wear 30+ sunscreen whenever you need to go outside
  • Cover the treated area with a dressing or clothing for extra protection
  • Wear a broad-rimmed hat if your face was treated
  • Do not pick scabs or peel skin as the treatment area heals
  • Use a cold compress and painkillers to relieve any pain or discomfort
  • Apply a petroleum ointment for further relief

Understanding the Cost and Accessibility of Photodynamic Therapy

Me Clinic offer PDT to patients with various skin conditions. The cost of the treatment will depend on how many sessions are required and your individual circumstances. We usually recommend 1 to 5 treatments that should ideally be spaced 4 weeks apart for optimum results. Milder treatments may require more sessions but generally the healing time is reduced.

A no obligation consultation with one of our Cosmetic Physicians, Nurses and Clinicians or Aestheticians is essential so your skin can be examined and assessed for its suitability. Contact us or fill in the consultation form to book an appointment at one of our clinic locations. We also offer other treatments, such as Laser Skin Rejuvenation, if PDT is not right for you. Find out why Australians choose Me Clinic by reading all about us here.


Surgical Warning: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

Read more on the Risks of Treatments

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Frequently Asked Questions about Photo Dynamic Therapy (PDT)

PDT is an outpatient treatment that typically doesn’t need anaesthesia. In some cases, a local anaesthetic may be used. Side effects include a stinging or burning sensation that peaks in the first few moments of treatment. The treated skin often exhibits a sunburn reaction post-therapy with redness, blisters and peeling being common. You will likely need follow-up treatments for best results. Your Me Clinic clinician will discuss whether PDT is right for you during a consultation and look at other treatment options if you are not suitable.

PDT results in improved skin texture and skin tone that’s clearer and more even. Studies have shown that PDT increases collagen production to also minimise pores, reduce oil glands and smooth fine lines and wrinkles for a brighter, healthier and more youthful complexion.

Please contact the Me Clinic. We have over 35 years of Cosmetic Medicine experience to share with you. We ensure you will be fully informed and understand your options before commencing any treatment.

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