Laser Dermatology for Acne
Acne, the most common skin condition in the United States, plagues teens and young adults during the hormone swings that accompany puberty. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), almost every case of acne can be treated, no matter how severe. Dermatologists increasingly are using laser light therapy to curb acne, but the AAD says there are few medical studies showing whether it truly is a long-term solution.
In normal skin, the sebaceous glands located below the skin's surface produce just enough oil to keep the skin soft, but not so much oil that pimples erupt. But when these glands make too much oil, the excess oil clogs pores, producing whiteheads, blackheads and cysts. Meanwhile, the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, which always is present in the skin in small amounts, expands too rapidly, contributing to inflammation. The result is moderate or severe acne.
Laser dermatology for acne works by targeting the sebaceous glands, according to the AAD. The water in the skin surrounding the glands absorbs the light emitted by the laser and then heats up. This alters the structure of the glands themselves, shrinking them and causing them to produce less oil. With less oil produced by the sebaceous glands, acne clears up.
Typically, laser treatment takes between five and 20 minutes in a dermatologist's office. The patient first applies a cream designed to numb the skin that will be treated. Next, the dermatologist or technician applies the laser light energy to that skin. Patients often feel a sensation like someone snapped a rubber band against their skin as the laser light hits it. After treatment, the skin might appear sunburned, but an ice pack can cool it if necessary.
About three to five treatments monthly are needed to clear skin, according to the AAD. Patients often note improvement after the first or second treatment, though. The effects of laser dermatology for acne generally last for up to six months, at which point acne may return, and you may need additional treatments.
The AAD points out that there have been few studies on laser dermatology for acne. In one study, published in the journal "Dermatologic Surgery" in 2004, researchers looked at one type of laser treatment for acne and concluded it was effective in clearing pimples. However, another study, published that same year in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," found little effect from another type of laser dermatology in acne. The AAD urges potential laser dermatology patients to discuss treatment options with their dermatologist to determine the best therapy.
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