Acne Treatments With Laser Procedures
Some 85 percent of all teenagers suffer from acne, which is the most common skin disorder in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). But laser procedures can help clear bad cases of acne, and may even prevent those acne lesions from becoming unsightly scars.
Several interrelated factors lead to acne, according to the AAD. These include overgrowth of the acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (abbreviated P. acnes), inflammation in the skin, overproduction of oil in the skin's oil-producing sebaceous glands and oil-blocked pores. Laser treatments work by reducing inflammation and by shrinking the sebaceous glands.
The most common laser used in acne treatment is the non-ablative laser, which stimulates the skin while avoiding visible injury. The laser emits a particular wavelength of light that works to heat water surrounding the sebaceous glands deep below the skin's surface. This, according to the AAD, works to alter the structure of the sebaceous glands, shrinking them and causing them to produce less oil.
Acne laser treatments generally take up to about 15 or 20 minutes to complete, according to the AAD. Patients might feel a stinging sensation (some laser patients have described it as the equivalent of a rubber band snapping against their skin). Many dermatologists offer the option for the patient to use a pre-treatment numbing cream that can help take the sting out of the laser procedure. The treatment likely will cause a mild "sunburn" effect, and patients can use ice afterward if their skin feels tender.
Medical research has shown that laser treatments for acne are safe and effective, according to the AAD. In a 2009 study published in the medical journal "Dermatologic Surgery," physicians compared two different lasers in 16 patients and concluded that both laser treatments decreased acne lesions by more than 85 percent. And, a 2008 study published in the "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology" compared laser treatment to two other types of treatments, and found lasers worked the fastest to clear acne lesions.
Up to five treatments may be required to achieve the best acne resolution, although many patients report that their acne began to clear up after the first or second treatment, according to the AAD. The effects of treatment may not last; the AAD warns that long-term effectiveness hasn't been proven for laser acne treatments, and some patients report their acne returned within a year. In addition, laser treatments for acne can be expensive, and health insurance may not cover the treatments.
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