Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is used to treat precancerous skin and kill early-stage cancer cells. A medicine known as aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is applied to the affected skin and is treated with intense light to destroy the damaged cells. 


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How it Works

Before beginning any treatment course, we require you to book a consultation to ensure you are a suitable candidate for this procedure. 

The two-step procedure occurs over the course of two separate appointments, arranged just a few hours apart. 

We recommend scheduling the first phase in the late afternoon and the second phase early the next morning. As well, the treatment can be performed in a single day if the first session is early in the morning and the second session is in the late afternoon. 

ALA Application

The ALA application is a quick appointment that must occur at least 3 hours before IPL can begin. ALA is applied to the affected area of skin and absorbed into abnormally fast growing cells such as bacteria, sebaceous cells, and/or precancerous cells.  

Intense Pulse Light Treatment

After the 3 hour window has passed and the ALA has been absorbed by the damaged cells, IPL is directed at the area and each damaged cell is selectively destroyed. 

This phase of the treatment takes approximately 30 minutes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to recover from photodynamic therapy?

There is minimal pain associated with photodynamic therapy. The primary cause of any discomfort is due to the interaction of the ALA with your skin, which is amplified with light exposure. 

Immediately following the treatment, you will experience skin redness, which may worsen slightly over the next couple of days. Most redness disappears in 2-7 days. As well, it is common to experience tingling, burning, mild swelling, and “tight” skin after treatment. 

To prevent any further discomfort and long-term damage, it is important to avoid sunlight or other bright lights for several days after treatment.  

Any pigmentation you may have will darken following IPL treatment. A scab may form where abnormal cells have been destroyed, which usually flakes off after about 1-3 weeks. Signs of redness, peeling and scabbing are all indicators of successful treatment.

PDT heals quickly and without scarring, meaning the slight discomfort and short-term redness are often the only side effects of PDT. 


What are the pros & cons of photodynamic therapy?


  • Minimally invasive compared to surgery
  • No long-term side effects
  • More cost-effective than other skin cancer treatments
  • Treatment is quick and often painless.


  • Use is limited to localised cancer cells, not those that have spread to other parts of the body. As well, it can only be applied to areas on or just under the skin. 
  • Patients are left extremely sensitive to light for a short period of time afterward.
  • Not all patients are suitable candidates for PDT (blood diseases, other underlying health conditions, etc.).
How long does photodynamic therapy last?

Though the two phases must be scheduled at least 3 hours apart, the two individual appointments are short in length. Both the ALA application and IPL session are both shorter than 30 minutes in length. 

How many treatments are required?

For sun-damaged skin we recommend one treatment. Depending on the severity of the damage, some people may require a second or even third treatment session, usually at least 7-10 days apart.

For best results, we recommend a course of FotoFacials (3-5 monthly treatments). FotoFacials combine IPL and radiofrequency technologies to treat sun-damaged skin and combat ageing. 


Is it safe?

PDT treatment is very safe. ALA is a natural occurring amino acid found in humans throughout the body. Although it causes a very red face in the first week, there are no systemic side effects and no scarring.

IPL treatment is also a safe treatment. There are some risks involved, though rare, including blistering, prolonged redness and hyper/hypo pigmentation.

These will all be fully explained to you during your consultation. Phone the clinic for an appointment and further explanation to see whether you are suitable.

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Please make an appointment with our Doctor or Registered Nurses so your pigment or other concern can be assessed and possible treatment strategies explained.

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