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PDT - Photodynamic Therapy

Ailesbury Clinic has been treating pateints with Photodynamic therapy (PDT) since 2003. This treatment used mainly for superficial types of skin cancer, including actinic keratoses and superficial basal cell carcinomas. It is also used off label for acne and skin rejuventation.


What is PDT and how does it work?

PDT utilises photosensitising agents, oxygen and light, to create a photochemical reaction that selectively destroys cancer cells. Photosensitising agents are drugs that are administered into the body through topical, oral or intravenous methods. In the body, they concentrate in cancer cells and only become active when light of a certain wavelength is directed onto the area where the cancer is. The photodynamic reaction between the photosensitising agent, light and oxygen kills the cancer cells.


What is PDT used for?

PDT is currently being used or investigated as a treatment for the following skin conditions:


What to expect during PDT treatment

 The skin to be treated is cleansed and degreased to remove any oils and makeup. A naturally occurring lotion called 5-ALA is applied to the affected area (eg. face, arms, scalp etc). The treatment area is then cleansed thoroughly and you will have the Omnilux machine with panels of red and blue lights placed over the area, for between 6 and 20 minutes. When applied to the skin, 5-ALA is only absorbed into abnormal or damaged cells. The time this preparation is left on the skin may vary according to depth of damage.



After absorption period, an LED light (blue and red light) is focused on the treated area for a period of time. When exposed to light, the abnormal skin cells are destroyed to reveal new, fresh, healthy skin cells. Your skin may feel quite hot during this phase however the aid of a cooling machine reduces any discomfort. A liberal amount of sun block SPF 50 plus will then be applied to the treatment area


 Downtime varies with the degree of treatment and the severity of the skin problem. The estimates above are a guide. Discussion with our PDT nurse specialist will give you a better idea.


What to expect after PDT treatment


Day 1-2

Your skin will be extremely sensitive to sunlight. Keep indoors as much as possible.


Day 3-5

The treated skin will be red and tender and may start to scab and flake off. This is a normal result and means the treatment has worked.


Day 6-9

The redness starts to disappear. Your skin may still feel itchy and tight but is starting to heal.


Day 10-14

The skin is healed. Healthy smooth, clear skin will be revealed



What are the possible side effects of PDT?

Side effects from PDT are due to the treated area being sensitive to light. The photosensitivity usually lasts about 24 hours (depending on the specific agent). Side effects may include:

  • Burning/stinging sensation
  • Swelling and redness
  • Crusting
  • Itchiness
  • Peeling and blisters
  • Skin infections

Related information


On DermNet NZ:






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Ailesbury Dublin
David Lloyd Riverview,

1st Floor,
Beech Hill Road,
Donnybrook  Dublin 4.

Tel:   (01)269 2255 / (01)269 2133
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patrick treacy

AMEC AWARDS 2014 & 2016

Ailesbury Clinics are the only clinic in the world to have won two AMEC Awards and ' Best Medical Research in Ireland 2017'. Specialists in Dermatology and Aesthetic Medicine. We perform minor surgery + skin cancer screen. VHI, Aviva, Laya and Irish Health accepted. Hstopathology performed at St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin. Consultation €120  READ MORE Please read all of our Ailesbury Clinic BLOGS


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