Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

PDT is a highly effective non-surgical treatment for certain types of pre-cancerous lesions and non-melanoma skin

What is Photodynamic therapy (PDT)?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a highly effective non-surgical treatment that combines a light-sensitive medicine with a special light source to treat and destroy certain types of pre-cancerous cells and rejuvenate the skin.

The aim of PDT

At rtwskin, we use PDT to treat certain types of pre-cancerous, non-melanoma conditions diagnosed during your Dermatology consultation:

  • Actinic keratosis are dry, scaly patches caused by years of sun damage which could become cancerous if left untreated. PDT can reduce redness and inflammation, and completely rejuvenate sun-damaged skin, as well as dramatically improve the skin’s texture and tone by targeting damaged cells to make way for new, healthy ones.
  • Bowens Disease
  • Superficial and nodular Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC)
  • Sun Damage – brown spots, premature wrinkling, rough dry red skin and scaly areas on the forehead, nose cheeks, scalp, and temples).

How does PDT work?

PDT works by causing a reaction when the light source activates the light-sensitive cream, that works to destroy abnormal cells. There are two ways of delivering topical PDT:

  • Red light-activated PDT
  • Day light-activated PDT

This light-sensitive drug is attracted to the abnormal cancer cells, and when exposed to a particular type of light kill off only the abnormal cells, allowing small areas of tissue to be treated. PDT minimises any cosmetic problems or scarring which would be associated with surgery. This is because surgery in cosmetically sensitive areas such as the face, nose or scalp can leave significant scars including the requirements for skin grafts or reconstructive surgery.

What happens next?

Following treatment, the area may be covered by a dressing that should remain in place for 24 hours. You can expect the area to be inflamed and crust for up to 7-14 days while the damaged cells are shed and replaced with new healthy ones. It is important that you try to avoid scratching or knocking the treated area, and that you keep it dry. Once the dressing is removed, you can wash as normal, making sure you gently pat the treated area dry to avoid damaging or breaking the skin.

Following your treatment, the Front of House team will help you to arrange a follow-up appointment for around 2-6 weeks’ time, during which your practitioner will assess how effective the treatment has been and decide if it needs to be repeated. 2-6 weeks allow the treated area to fully heal. 

Are there any risks or side effects from PDT?

PDT is a very safe and effective treatment; it is common to have some pain and discomfort for a few days. Taking regular painkillers such as paracetamol can help. Other potential side effects depend on the area treated and could include redness, swelling, and blistering. The site may ooze or develop a crust, this should get better after a few days.  You may notice some darkening or lightening of the skin as well as hair loss, which is usually temporary, but in some cases can become permanent.

The scab usually heals in about 3 weeks. You might need to avoid bright light or sunlight for a limited time, because your skin may be more sensitive to sunlight. You will need to use an SPF50 cream to protect your skin.

Is PDT right for me?

Your practitioner will fully assess your area of concern, as well as your suitability for this treatment prior to going ahead. You may be offered alternative treatment if your practitioner feels it would be more beneficial for you. PDT is a very effective and non-invasive treatment that has been proven effective in treating a range of different conditions.