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Hyperpigmentation Laser Treatment

Updated on August 21, 2011

What are the main causes of hyperpigmentation?

We often heard that some patients are having hyperpigmentation, so what exactly is hyperpigmentation? In fact, hyperpigmentation is not a diagnostic term for a disease, it just describes the symptom of unusual skin pigmentation (the darkening of patches of skin) that can be found in many skin diseases. In dermatology, hyperpigmentation refers to all the skin disorders that have the symptoms of unusual darkening of the skin. The major pathogenesis of hyperpigmentation is the unusual increase in the number or activity of melanocytes (a cell in the basal layer of the epidermis that produces melanin).

The main causes of hyperpigmentation can be divided into genetic (such as freckles), endocrine (chloasma), metabolic (Riehl's melanosis), drug-induced (fixed drug eruption), inflammatory (sunburn), tumor-related (malignant mole ), physical (friction melanosis) and factitious (tattoo) and so on. Among all the above factors, only tumor-related hyperpigmentation is caused by the abnormal increase in the number of melanocytes, the others are mostly due to abnormal metabolism of melanocytes.

A detailed list of the major causes of hyperpigmentation is also shown below:

1. Genetic factors: such as the freckles, juvenile type acanthosis nigricans, acral pigmentation, Jegher's syndrome, familial progressive hyperpigmentation (FPH), neurofibromatosis and so on.

2. Endocrine and metabolic factors: such as Addison disease, ectopic ACTH syndrome, chloasma, pregnancy, renal insufficiency, biliary cirrhosis and so on.

3. Other factors: such as on sunburn, ultraviolet or radiation exposure, contact with gold, silver, bismuth, mercury, arsenic, etc., chlorpromazine and other phenothiazine drugs, malaria drugs, contraceptives, lack of Vitamin A or B12 etc..

Laser treatment for hyperpigmentation

Right now, treatments for hyperpigmentation are largely focused on the following two aspects: one aims at curing the diseases that has caused hyperpigmentation, the other is local symptomatic treatment, which uses physical or chemical methods to eliminate the local pigmentation. For example, common diseases include various types of pigmented nevus, blue nevus, nevus of Ota, nevus of Ito, pigmented hairy epidermal nevus, milk coffee spots, freckles, age spots and so on can be treated with laser beams to achieve effective results.

From the above analysis of the causes of hyperpigmentation, it is not difficult to see, hereditary diseases and cancer etiology clear, less influenced by the body, local treatment of multiple access satisfactory outcome. Common diseases include various types of nevi, nevus blue nevus, nevus of Ota, Itoh moles, pigmented hairy epidermal nevus, coffee spots, freckles, age spots and so on.

About three decades ago, the theory of selective photothermal effect was first proposed, that is, different wavelengths of laser beams can alternatively act on different colors of skin lesions. After that, short-pulsed laser has been developed in the treatment of skin pigmentation diseases and has achieved great results. Equipment of short-pulsed laser has tremendous instant power, high concentration of radiation energy and color selective, very short pulse width, so that its laser energy can be highly focused on the pigment granules. After being exposed to laser light, these pigment granules will be vaporized or crushed instantly, and removed from the body through the lymphatic tissue without affecting its surrounding normal tissue. The treatment has been proved to be a safe, effective way to treat hyperpigmentation with less pain and no scar.

Laser light has combined light, heat, pressure and electromagnetic effects on the human body, its biological effect on skin tissue depends heavily on the type of laser light and the physical properties of the biological tissue. The biological effects of laser beam on the skin are closely related to its light power. High-power laser (a few watts to several hundred watts) can increase tissue temperature to 1000 degrees Celsius in a few seconds, so that the body tissue will rapidly undergo degeneration, necrosis, carbonization and vaporization. High-power laser is suitable for freckles and freckle-like moles. Low-power laser (milliwatt), on the other hand, has stimulation effect that can dilate blood vessels to improve blood circulation and promote epithelial tissue regeneration. Optical devices such as pulsed ruby laser can make blood vessels stronger and eliminate pigmentation. 

Care after hyperpigmentation laser surgery

1, After laser surgery, the skin will usually have swelling and even minor bleeding due to exposure to laser light, this is a normal phenomenon that you do not need to worry too much about, mostly, these symptoms will quick disappeared several days after the surgery.

2, After the laser treatment, you are recommended to apply anti-inflammatory cream daily on the skin, this will help the treated area to form a crust and fall off shortly. What’s more, in the post operative care, you should pay attention to cleanliness of the skin and to avoid sun exposure to protect the treated area from becoming dark.

3, You should pay special attention to sun protection after laser hyperpigmentation surgery, because shortly after laser treatment the skin usually becomes very thin and cannot resist UV light, that’s why over exposure to the sunlight will cause pigmentation on the skin.

4, It is recommended that you should clean the treated area every day with warm water and soap, and then apply antibiotic cream evenly on the skin.

5, In addition to effective sun protection, you should also stay away from alcoholic beverage, and spicy foods at the first few weeks after the laser surgery. Moreover, you should also avoid strenuous exercise so as not to cause skin flushing and other symptoms.

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