Acne Scars & Dermabrasion
Acne scars are disfiguring marks on the skin that can occur in cases of severe acne. In some instances, the presence of acne scars may cause social discomfort or adversely affect your self-image. You may be able to reduce or eliminate these scars with a surgical procedure called dermabrasion, which involves the removal of damaged skin layers with a specialized abrasive device.
Before attempting to treat scarring, your doctor will typically try to treat and control any active acne symptoms, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD). If your acne is not controlled, new outbreaks may lead to the formation of additional scars. Prior to treatment, your doctor will also examine your skin and review your medical history to make sure you are an appropriate candidate for a dermabrasion procedure. The AAD lists potential hindrances to dermabrasion that include immune system depression, clotting or bleeding disorders and use of vitamin A-related medications called retinoids.
Dermabrasion is performed with a specialized instrument that houses a rapidly rotating abrasive brush or wheel, the AAD reports. During a dermabrasion procedure, your doctor will use this instrument to scrape away the upper layers of your skin, which typically contain the majority of your acne scars. You may undergo dermabrasion in an outpatient facility or in your doctor's office. Prior to surgery, your doctor will clean your face with an antiseptic, then numb your skin with a freezing spray or an injectable anesthetic. If you undergo extensive dermabrasion, your doctor may also choose to use a sedative or general anesthesia, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus.
To diminish the possibility of post-surgical scabbing or scarring, your doctor will cover your affected skin with an antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly after dermabrasion, MedlinePlus reports. You will likely experience pain for several days following the procedure, although typically your level of discomfort will not be severe. Skin healing after dermabrasion takes roughly 10 days, the AAD explains. Over a period of two to three months, your new skin will gradually grow to match the appearance of surrounding areas.
In addition to risks such as infection or bleeding, which accompany any surgical procedure, MedlinePlus lists potential risks of dermabrasion that include permanent darkening or lightening of your treated skin. You may also develop an unusual skin thickening similar to that found in the skin condition called keloids, the AAD notes. If you have a known history of keloids, inform your doctor before undergoing dermabrasion.
Dermabrasion may not relieve all cases of acne scarring, the AAD reports. If you have especially deep scars, your doctor may suggest alternative treatments such as suturing of your skin or use of skin grafts. In some cases, your doctor may combine a dermabrasion procedure with additional treatments that raise the surface of your skin. Options here include the injection of substances such as hyaluronic acid, fat or collagen.
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