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Methyl aminolevulinate (Topical application)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 5, 2022.

Commonly used brand name(s)

In the U.S.

  • Metvixia

Uses for methyl aminolevulinate

Methyl aminolevulinate is used with photodynamic therapy (light treatment) to treat actinic keratosis (AK) on the face and scalp. Actinic keratoses are skin lesions or growths in areas where the skin has been exposed to the sun. AK normally occurs in older patients with light-colored skin. Methyl aminolevulinate is only used for AK skin lesions that are thin and light in color.

Methyl aminolevulinate is available only with your doctor's prescription.

Before using methyl aminolevulinate

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For methyl aminolevulinate, the following should be considered:


Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to methyl aminolevulinate or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.


Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of methyl aminolevulinate in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.


Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of methyl aminolevulinate in the elderly.

Interactions with medicines

Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. Tell your healthcare professional if you are taking any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicine.

Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol

Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.

Other medical problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of methyl aminolevulinate. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

  • Allergy to almond oil or
  • allergy to peanut oil or
  • allergy to porphyrins (e.g., porfimer [Photofrin®], verteporfin [Visudyne®]) or
  • photosensitivity (skin sensitive to sunlight), history of—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
  • Bleeding problems or
  • Skin cancer or other skin lesions, history of—Use with caution. May cause side effects to become worse.

Proper use of methyl aminolevulinate

Methyl aminolevulinate will be applied to your skin in a clinic or doctor's office. You will receive two treatments with methyl aminolevulinate spaced 1 week apart.

Methyl aminolevulinate is for use on the skin only. Do not get it in your eyes, nose, or mouth. If it does get on these areas, tell your doctor right away.

Precautions while using methyl aminolevulinate

It is very important that your doctor check your progress three months after the treatment. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to check for unwanted effects.

Methyl aminolevulinate causes the treated areas of your skin to be more sensitive to light. Avoid exposure to sunlight or bright indoor light for 3 hours after the medicine is applied to your skin. This includes medical examination lights, operating room lights, tanning beds, or any lights that are close to you. You should also avoid exposure to sunlight or bright indoor light on the treated skin for 2 days after the light treatment (photodynamic therapy). Cover the treated areas of your skin. If you must go out during daylight hours, wear a protective hat or clothing. Check with your doctor if you have questions about this.

Avoid cold temperatures for 3 hours after the medicine is applied to your skin. Wear warm clothing and cover the treated area if you are in cold places.

Methyl aminolevulinate side effects

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

More common

  • Breakdown of the skin
  • irritation and redness of the skin
  • scabbing
  • swelling of the eyelid
  • swelling of the skin

Less common

  • Discharge at the site of application
  • sores on the skin that do not heal

Incidence not known

  • Blistering, burning, crusting, dryness, or flaking of the skin
  • blurred vision or other change in vision
  • eye redness, irritation, or pain
  • hives or welts
  • itching, scaling, or severe redness of the skin
  • persistent non-healing sore
  • pink growth on the skin
  • reddish patch or irritated area on the skin
  • seeing flashes or sparks of light
  • seeing floating spots before the eyes, or a veil or curtain appearing across part of the vision
  • shiny bump on the skin
  • skin rash, encrusted, scaly and oozing
  • white, yellow, or waxy scar-like area on the skin

Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

Less common

  • Darkening of the skin

Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.

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

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.