Laser treatment of acne - Shedding light on this breakthrough
Acne is a very common skin condition involving blockage and inflammation of hair follicles and their attached, oil-producing sebaceous glands. It causes blackheads and whiteheads (open and closed comedones) and inflammatory bumps, including papules, pustules, or cysts.
There are many factors that can lead to acne. The main factors include blockage, inflammation, certain hormones and bacteria. Genetics, lifestyle and environmental circumstances may also influence this condition.
Acne can also affect the individual's self-esteem and cause significant emotional distress, including anxiety, depression and even suicide in some cases. Although about 85 per cent of teenagers have this condition, persons of all ages can get it. It may not be a big deal to some persons but others may want to get this disease treated to improve the appearance and avoid long-term physical and psychological scarring and hyperpigmentation (dark spots).
In previous articles, we have discussed various treatment options like topical products (benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, retinoids (made from vitamin A), salicylic acid, sulphur, glycolic acid, etc. If needed, oral medications may be prescribed like oral antibiotics, anti-hormone treatments and oral retinoids.
Procedures like facials, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser and other light treatments may also be used to help treat acne. Acne treatments are usually combined and customised based on the affected individual. However, caution should be taken not to combine too many products that remove dead skin cells at the same time. This is especially so in patients of darker skin types who can get darker patches of skin left behind if the skin is irritated.
A novel 650 micro-second Nd:YAG type laser voted 'Best laser for hair removal' for the last three years in the United States has been generating a buzz in our practice and internationally for treating acne and other medical conditions.
This laser is gentle, safe and effective on all skin types. Therefore, the concept of treating acne with this specific form of light is very exciting, especially for patients who may not be able to tolerate other treatments. It targets the bacteria and sebaceous glands, and reduces inflammation. It can be combined with other treatments, best done under the guidance of a dermatologist.
SPEED UP TREATMENT
Affected persons love that lasers can speed up the treatment period, giving quicker results than when other treatments are used alone. For example, acne medicines may take eight to 12 weeks to show pleasing results, while laser treatment can give great results in two to three weeks. It may also help reduce dark spots and scarring which can result from acne.
There are no long-term side effects. Temporary redness may occur but burns, scarring and dark spots are not common when treatments are done by a trained dermatologist. There have been patients who remain in control of their acne for years on laser treatment alone. Multiple treatments tend to give more lasting results than a single treatment. While some studies are showing impressive results with laser treatment of acne, more studies are needed to give more information.
- Dr Arusha Campbell-Chambers is a dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Solutions Skin Clinics & Medi-Spas; email: firstname.lastname@example.org