Acne Laser Therapy
Acne is a skin condition that can lead to scarring when your skin requires a long time to heal. Dermatologists commonly use lasers to remove the top layers of acne scars. These layers will then heal, which usually reduces the degree of scarring significantly. This type of laser therapy is known more specifically as laser resurfacing.
Most sources of light radiate light with a range of wavelengths, whereas a laser emits light with only one specific wavelength. Lasers used for treating acne scars emit a wavelength of light that the skin absorbs easily. The light is emitted in brief pulses, which causes the skin to heat up quickly and vaporize. This process is known as ablation.
A carbon dioxide (CO2) laser uses CO2 gas to emit light with a wavelength of about 10µm. This is the oldest type of laser used to treat acne scars. According to the Encyclopedia of Surgery, a CO2 laser provides more consistent results than newer types of lasers in most cases. This is primarily because more long-term studies are available on treatments with CO2 lasers than other types of lasers.
An erbium, yttrium, aluminum and garnet (Er:YAG) laser uses a crystal composed of these materials to emit light with a wavelength of about 2.94µm. The primary advantage of the Er:YAG laser is that your skin absorbs this wavelength of light more easily. This means that a Er:YAG laser treatment generally requires a shorter recovery period than a CO2 laser treatment.
The treatment site for laser resurfacing will usually receive local anesthesia. However, a nerve block anesthesia may also be required if the treatment area is large. Laser resurfacing is commonly performed on the face which typically requires your eyes to be covered to protect them from the laser light. The surgeon then enters a series of instructions to the laser's computer, which controls the laser's actions. The laser then makes a series of passes over the treatment area, emitting the laser light in very short pulses as it does so. An Er:YAG laser will generally make more passes than a CO2 laser.
The surgeon may elect to use open or closed wound care for laser resurfacing. Open wound care involves changing a dressing each day until the skin forms a scab over the treated area. Closed wound care requires the patient to soak the skin in a solution of salt water or vinegar.
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