Laser Therapy for Acne
Almost every case of acne can be treated, even the most severe cases, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. That's good news for teenagers and those in their early 20s, who tend to suffer from the worst acne. Dermatologists have been using laser therapy to treat acne for nearly 10 years, and many patients find it offers a good alternative acne remedy.
Hormones that spike in adolescence cause the skin's sebaceous glands to produce more oil. This leads to oily skin, blocked pores, and pimples. In addition, the bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes, tends to flourish when the skin is too oily, creating infection and inflammation. Taken together, these factors can create a disfiguring case of acne.
Laser therapy treats the sebaceous glands, which produce the skin's oil. When laser energy strikes the skin, it heats the water deep within the skin that surrounds these glands. The heat then shrinks the glands so that they make less oil. The heat from laser therapy also kills some of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria.
Lasers can clear acne, even bad cases, without causing a noticeable injury. In laser therapy sessions, patients first apply a cream that numbs the area to be treated, and then don goggles to protect their eyes. Next, the technician uses a small wand to apply laser light to the treatment area, a small square at a time. During the treatment, patients often feel a snapping or stinging sensation as the light hits their skin. Treatments generally take about 20 minutes.
The academy estimates that three to five laser therapy sessions, given once a month, can clear most acne for six months or more. However, the group also points out that study results of laser therapy for acne have been mixed. A 2004 study conducted at the University of Texas-Houston School of Medicine found dramatic clinical improvement in the group of 19 patients studied. However, a study from the University of Michigan Medical School, also published in 2004, found a different type of laser was not effective in clearing acne lesions.
Research into laser therapy for acne is in its early stages, and the academy cautions that few good studies are available to show whether it works long-term to keep acne at bay. However, some dermatologists have incorporated laser therapy into their arsenal of acne-fighting medications and procedures. Patients who consider laser therapy for acne may need to combine it with topical or oral medications for the best results.
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