Hitting the spots
Acne, which affects around 80 per cent of the Australian population to some degree, typically clears spontaneously after the troublesome teenage years.
However, for the unfortunate few, acne can be severe, and sometimes persists well into adulthood, having a profound social and psychological impact.
Moderate to severe acne can cause large and often painful cysts under the skin, with breakouts occurring all over the body. It typically affects areas of the skin where there is an over-production of sebum, or oil.
Pustules and papules develop as a result of blockages in follicles caused by sebum and dead skin cells. This is often compounded by bacteria, which leads to inflammation and can result in scarring.
Over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments work to speed up skin cell turnover, slough dead skin cells, reduce oil production, fight bacterial infection and limit inflammation. Medications may be applied to the skin topically, or ingested, however many result in side effects such as stinging, burning or redness, and results may not be seen for up to eight weeks.
According to Queensland skin doctor Dr Bill Anseline, moderate to severe acne is commonly treated with antibiotic medication, oral contraceptives and, in severe cases, Roaccutane. However, these options are not always suitable and can have serious side effects.
‘Many of my patients, for a variety of reasons, don’t want to use antibiotics, oral contraceptives or Roaccutane,’ he says. ‘For these patients, Photodynamic Therapy, or PDT, can offer a viable alternative and can often achieve longlasting results.’
As the research and education director at allmedic, an Australian medical skin health company, Dr Anseline believes PDT provides his patients with a non-surgical and cost-effective solution.
Nicholas, who is now 17, met Dr Anseline a year ago, having suffered severe acne over 85 per cent of his face for the past four years.
‘It was getting progressively worse,’ he says. ‘I tried all sorts of products. At first they would help but, after about six months, the breakouts would be worse than ever.’
Dr Anseline prescribed PDT to alleviate Nicholas’ acneic skin. Nicholas noticed a dramatic difference within 10 days of his first treatment; and estimates that around half of the spots had cleared within that time. After three treatments over the course of three months, Nicholas’ complexion is now clear.
‘It has made an incredible difference to my confidence,’ he says. ‘I don’t feel self conscious anymore about the way I look. My family, friends and teachers can’t believe how quickly my acne disappeared.’
Treatment with PDT involves two stages. ‘Firstly, a naturally occurring photosensitiser lotion called 5-ALA (or m-ALA) is applied to the skin,’ explains Dr Anseline. ‘It is selectively absorbed into active cells such as the acne sebaceous gland, making them more sensitive to light.’
The second stage involves the activation of the photosensitiser by an LED, IPL or laser light source, which destroys the abnormal cells.
‘In my experience, PDT provides exceptional results for acne, as well as a wide range of other skin conditions, including rosacea, sun-damaged and aged skin, fine lines, and pigmentation,’ says Dr Anseline. He adds that PDT can also have a positive impact on the texture, luminosity and firmness of the skin by increasing the production of collagen.
Luke, who is now 24, presented to Dr Anseline with moderate acne across his back, which he suddenly developed at 21. For two and a half years he had tried a variety of drugs and products, without success. His girlfriend eventually encouraged him to see Dr Anseline.
‘I had three PDT treatments a month apart and my acne has cleared by about 95 per cent,’ he says. ‘I am over the moon. I always used to feel self conscious about taking my shirt off when I went to the beach and when I went running,’ he adds.
Both Nicholas and Luke believe the greatest benefit has been the boost in their self-confidence.
To optimise the results from PDT, Dr Anseline says it is important to prepare the skin at least two weeks prior to the treatment, and follow a post-treatment skincare plan. As part of a scientific research team, Dr Anseline developed a range of clinical grade, doctor-only skincare products designed to treat acne, repair and protect the skin, as well as complement non-surgical procedures such as PDT, IPL and laser.
‘At allmedic, we have built a complete solution that allows patients to target specific skin issues such as acne with non-surgical procedures like PDT, whilst also maintaining the health of their skin with ongoing skincare products that are science-based, effective and affordable,’ Dr Anseline concludes.’ csbm