Laser Treatment for Scars - What Are the Options?
Scars are a result of damage to the skin from a wide variety of causes including surgery, diseases such as chickenpox, sports and other injuries and severe acne. Over time small scars will virtually disappear. Larger scars that may be raised or indented can be treated with a variety of therapies including laser treatment for scars, chemical peels and micro dermabrasion. Laser scar removal is not appropriate for everyone and is not recommended for people who have skin disorders such as cystic acne, dermatitis or psoriasis. Some medications such as isotretinoin should not be used for at least six months before laser treatment.
Types of Scars
- Atrophic Scars are usually caused by skin diseases such as acne and look like small pits in the skin.
- Keloid scars are raised, firm usually red or purplish scars that build up gradually and cover more than the initial damaged area.
- Hypertrophic scars are usually pink, firm and raised and and only cover the original damaged area. They usually fade over a period of time.
Laser Treatment for Scars
The use of lasers has been highly successful in minimizing scars and can reduce their appearance by as much as 80%. There are a variety of different lasers used for the treatment of scars and a dermatologist will choose the type of laser to be used depending on the kind of scar you have.
Types of Lasers Used in Laser Treatment of Scars
CO2 and YAG lasers are usually used for the scars resulting from acne. These types of lasers are both ablative, that is to they use a technique which removes the top layer of skin. The YAG laser is less damaging than the CO2 laser but both require a period of healing.
Fractionated CO2 and YAG lasers work by creating small areas of damage under the skin and is in effect a controlled process of wound healing. These types of lasers are also used for the treatment of acne scars. There is no downtime with this type of laser
Pulsed dye lasers are usually used to treat keloid hypertrophic scars and can be used in conjunction with steroid injections or 5-FU (five percent fluorouracil) which can help to flatten raised scars. This type of laser also needs no healing time.
Is Laser Treatment for Scars Suitable for Everyone?
Laser treatments works best on fair skin and is not so successful for those with very dark skin. The introduction of fractionated infrared lasers has allowed this treatment to be used for the treatment of acne scars in this section of the population but keloid and hypertrophic scars are still not treatable by a laser technique. Anyone with an existing skin condition such as cystic acne or psoriasis or some types of dermatitis should consult a dermatologist to see if this treatment is appropriate for them.
How Does Laser Treatment For Scars Work?
In ablative types of lasers the laser is used to remove the top layer of skin to allow new skin to grow over and cover the area of the scar. In non-ablative types the laser targets cells deep in the skin which stimulates the growth of collagen. This then fills in the pits of acne scars or covers other types of scars with new growth. The treatment can be performed as an outpatient and a local anesthetic is usually used. Depending on the severity of scarring the time it takes for the procedure can vary from 10 minutes to over an hour.
After the procedure the area can be washed very gently with a mild soap and an antibiotic appointment may be applied. Some medicated creams may be prescribed which can help fade the scar, For some types of laser scar treatment pain medication may be necessary.
The skin will start to regenerate a few days after treatment and the speed with which the area heals depends on the type of laser which was used and a variety of other factors including the characteristics of your skin and the way you look after it after treatment. There are some side effects associated with laser treatment for scars including increased or decreased pigmentation which can be made worse by exposure to the sun. An antibiotic cream is usually prescribed to prevent infection.
Laser treatment for scars is a highly successful procedure that can drastically minimize the appearance of many different types of scars. It is an expensive procedure, costs varying with the severity of scarring and the area to be treated. Many of the newer types of lasers used do not damage the outer surface of the skin side so you can continue your normal activities immediately after treatment. A dermatologist will be able to tell you which type of laser treatment is suitable for your skin type depending on the amount and type of scarring that you have.
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