Aminolevulinic Acid Topical : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions & More

Why is this medication prescribed?

Aminolevulinic acid is used in combination with photodynamic therapy (PDT; special blue light) to treat actinic keratoses (small, scaly or crusty bumps or horns on or under the skin that result from exposure to sunlight and can become in skin cancer) of the face or scalp. Aminolevulinic acid belongs to a class of medications called photosensitizing agents. When aminolevulinic acid is activated by light, it damages cells from actinic keratosis lesions.

How should this medicine be used?

Aminolevulinic acid comes in a special applicator for a doctor to make into a solution and apply to the affected skin area. You must return to the doctor 14 to 18 hours after application of aminolevulinic acid to be treated with PDT with blue light. For example, if you have had aminolevulinic acid applied in the late afternoon, you will need the blue light treatment the next morning. You will be given special goggles to protect your eyes during the blue light treatment.

Do not put a dressing or bandage on the area treated with aminolevulinic acid. Keep the treated area dry until you return to the doctor for a blue light treatment.

Your doctor will examine you 8 weeks after treatment with aminolevulinic acid and PDT to decide if you need a new treatment of the same skin area.

Other uses for this medicine

This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

What special precautions should I follow?

Before using aminolevulinic acid,

  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to aminolevulinic acid, porphyrins, or any other medications.
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: antihistamines; diuretics (‘water pills’); griseofulvin (Fulvicin-U / F, Grifulvin V, Gray-PEG); medications for diabetes, mental illness, and nausea; sulfa antibiotics; and tetracycline antibiotics such as demeclocycline (Declomycin), doxycycline (Doryx, Vibramycin), minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin), and tetracycline (Sumycin). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you closely for side effects.
  • Tell your doctor if you have porphyria (a condition that causes sensitivity to light). Your doctor will probably tell you not to use aminolevulinic acid.
  • Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had any other medical conditions.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant during treatment with aminolevulinic acid, call your doctor.
  • If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are using aminolevulinic acid.
  • You should know that aminolevulinic acid will make your skin very sensitive to sunlight (it is likely to get sunburned). Avoid exposing treated skin to direct sunlight or bright indoor light (for example, tanning salons, bright halogen lighting, near task lighting, and high-powered lighting used in operating rooms or dental offices) prior to treatment exposure with blue light. Before going outside in the sunlight, protect treated skin from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or other head covering that shades the treated area or blocks the sun. Sunscreen will not protect you from sensitivity to sunlight. If you feel burning or stinging in the treated areas or see that they have become red or inflamed, be sure to keep the area protected from sunlight or bright light.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

If you cannot return to the doctor for the blue light treatment 14 to 18 hours after levulinic acid application, call your doctor. Continue to protect the treated skin from sunlight or other strong light for at least 40 hours.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Aminolevulinic acid may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • tingling, stinging, prickling, or burning of lesions during blue light treatment (should get better within 24 hours)
  • redness, swelling, and scaling of treated actinic keratoses and surrounding skin (should get better within 4 weeks)
  • discoloration of the skin
  • itching
  • bleeding
  • blistering
  • pus under the skin
  • hives

Aminolevulinic acid may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while using this medication.

In case of emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, is having trouble breathing, or cannot wake up, call 911 immediately for emergency services. Protect skin from sunlight or other strong light for at least 40 hours.

What other information should I know?

Keep all your appointments with your doctor.

It is important that you keep a written list of all prescription and over-the-counter (over-the-counter) medications you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should take this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you go into hospital. It is also important information to take with you in case of emergencies.

Brand Names

  • Levulan® Kerastick®

Disclaimer: We have made every effort to ensure that all information is factually accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a licensed health care professional’s choice of knowledge and expertise. You should always consult your doctor or other health care professional before taking any medication. The information given here is subject to change and it has not been used to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions or adverse effects. The lack of warning or other information for any drug does not indicate that the combination of medicine or medication is safe, effective or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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