Aminolevulinic Acid

Aminolevulinic Acid treats a pre-cancerous skin condition. The treated area should be protected from sunlight and bright indoor light during the period prior to blue light treatment.

Aminolevulinic Acid Overview

Reviewed: December 31, 2013
Updated: 

Aminolevulinic acid is a prescription medication used to treat to actinic keratoses of the face or scalp. This is a condition of small crusty or scaly bumps or horns on or under the skin that result from exposure to sunlight and can develop into skin cancer. Aminolevulinic acid belongs to a group of drugs called photosensitizing agents. When activated by light, aminolevulinic acid damages the cells of lesions and bumps. This medication comes in a topical solution form and applied to the affected skin area by a doctor. You must return to the doctor 14 to 18 hours after application to be treated by blue light PDT (photodynamic therapy). Common side effects include blistering, itching, and bleeding of skin at site of application. During PDT (lasts for approximately 17 minutes), you may experience sensations of tingling, stinging, prickling or burning of the treated lesions. These feelings of discomfort should improve at the end of the light treatment.

Patient Ratings for

How was your experience with ?

First, a little about yourself

Tell us about yourself in a few words?

What tips would you provide a friend before taking ?

What are you taking for?

Choose one
  • Other

How long have you been taking it?

Choose one
  • Less than a week
  • A couple weeks
  • A month or so
  • A few months
  • A year or so
  • Two years or more

How well did work for you?

Did you experience many side effects while taking this drug?

How likely would you be to recommend to a friend?

Aminolevulinic Acid Cautionary Labels

precautions

Uses of Aminolevulinic Acid

Aminolevulinic acid is a prescription medication used to treat to actinic keratoses of the face or scalp. This is a condition of small crusty or scaly bumps or horns on or under the skin that result from exposure to sunlight and can develop into skin cancer.

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

Aminolevulinic Acid Brand Names

Aminolevulinic Acid may be found in some form under the following brand names:

Aminolevulinic Acid Drug Class

Aminolevulinic Acid is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Aminolevulinic Acid

Common side effects include:

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

This is not a complete list of this medication’s side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Aminolevulinic Acid Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:

  • antihistamines
  • diuretics ('water pills')
  • griseofulvin (Fulvicin-U/F, Grifulvin V, Gris-PEG)
  • medications for diabetes
  • medications for mental illness
  • medications for nausea
  • sulfa antibiotics
  • tetracycline antibiotics such as demeclocycline (Declomycin), doxycycline (Doryx, Vibramycin), minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin), and tetracycline (Sumycin)

This is not a complete list of aminolevulinic acid drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Aminolevulinic Acid Precautions

Serious side effects have been reported with aminolevulinic acid.

  • During the time period between the application and exposure to blue light PDT, the treatment site will become sensitive to light (photosensitive).
    • You should avoid exposure of the photosensitive treatment sites to sunlight or bright indoor light (examination lamps, operating room lamps, tanning beds, or lights at close proximity) during the period prior to blue light treatment.
    • Exposure may result in a stinging and/or burning sensation and may cause erythema and/or edema of the lesions. Protect treated lesions from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or similar head covering of light-opaque material. Sunscreens will not protect against reactions caused by visible light. It has not been determined if perspiration can spread aminolevulinic acid outside the treatment site to the eyes or surrounding skin.
  • Application to areas around lesions of damaged skin (perilesional) may result in photosensitization. Upon exposure to light from the blue light PDT, you may experience a stinging and/or burning sensation and may become red and/or may swell in a manner similar to that of actinic keratoses.
  • Because of the potential for skin to become photosensitized, this medication should be used by a health professional.

Do not use this medication if

  • are allergic to aminolevulinic acid
  • you are photosensitive at wavelengths of 400-450 nm
  • have a history of porphyria
  • have allergies to porphyrins
  • are sensitive to any of the components of this medication

 

Aminolevulinic Acid Food Interactions

Medications can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of aminolevulinic acid, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet.

Inform MD

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
  • 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 (likely to get sunburn). Avoid exposure of treated skin to direct sunlight or bright indoor light (e.g. tanning salons, bright halogen lighting, close task lighting, and high power lighting used in operating rooms or dental offices) before exposure to blue light treatment. Before going outdoors in the sunlight, protect treated skin from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or other head covering that will shade the treated area or block the sun. Sunscreen will not protect you from sensitivity to sunlight. If you feel burning or stinging of the treated areas or see that they have become red or swollen, be sure that you are keeping the area protected from sunlight or bright light.

Aminolevulinic Acid and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X, are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.

This medication falls into category C. Animal studies have not been done with this medication. It is also not known whether aminolevulinic acid can cause harm to an unborn baby when given to a pregnant woman. This medication should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.

Aminolevulinic Acid and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.

It is not known if aminolevulinic acid crosses into human milk. Because many medications can cross into human milk and because of the possibility for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants with use of this medication, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or stop the use of this medication. Your doctor and you will decide if the benefits outweigh the risk of using aminolevulinic acid.

Aminolevulinic Acid Usage

  • Aminolevulinic acid contains alcohol and is intended for topical (on the skin) use only.
  • Aminolevulinic acid comes in a special applicator to be made into a solution and applied to the affected skin area by a doctor.
  • You must return to the doctor 14 to 18 hours after aminolevulinic acid application to be treated by blue light PDT. For example, if you have aminolevulinic acid applied in the late afternoon, you will need to have the blue light treatment the next morning.
  • You will be given special goggles to protect your eyes during blue light treatment.
  • Do not put a dressing or bandage on the area treated with aminolevulinic acid. Keep the treated area dry until you go back to the doctor for blue light treatment.
  • Your doctor will examine you 8 weeks after aminolevulinic acid and PDT treatment to decide whether you need retreatment of the same skin area.

Aminolevulinic Acid Dosage

Take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully.
The dose your doctor recommends may be based on the following:

  • the condition being treated
  • other medical conditions you have
  • other medications you are taking
  • how you respond to this medication
  • your weight
  • your height
  • your age
  • your gender

The recommended treatment frequency is one application of the and one dose of illumination (blue light PDT) per treatment site per 8-week treatment session.

Aminolevulinic Acid Overdose

If this medication is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting, it is unlikely that an overdose will occur. However, if overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.
 

Other Requirements

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