Lasers in dermatology

Lasers are intense beams of light which have been become popular in many different medical fields, including dermatology, surgery, ophthalmology, gynaecology, neurosurgery, ENT, kidney, prostate etc. All these lasers work on special principles formulated by Dr. Taneja’s colleagues in the department of dermatology at the Harvard Medical School and were originally used to treat different conditions of the skin.

The basic idea of medical lasers and similar machines like IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is to avoid surgeries altogether by using intense focussed beams of light, which very selectively and gently target and heat only the unwanted structures beneath the skin. No pain, harm or damage is caused to surrounding structures or to the superficial skin.

For example, light beams can be adjusted using refined optical physics to selectively target only the unwanted hair roots on a woman’s chin (or any other part of the body) to achieve a smooth hairless face and causing no harm to any surrounding structure. The treatment takes about 5 minutes to perform, is painless and the patient can get back to office or work immediately after the treatment.  However, in one session, only about 15%-25% of the roots can be targeted, thus several sessions at monthly intervals are required.

Red-colored vascular birthmarks like hemangiomas or port-wine stains can now be treated very gently and non-surgically by lasers emitting green light which is absorbed by the red color in the blood vessels.

Skin rejuvenation can be achieved with IPL and lasers (“photo-facials”) by improving the skin tone and also by achieving a gentle tightening effect of the skin and this is a good way to maintain a healthy and youthful skin even in normal persons.

Acne scars are a common teenage problem and with proper use of lasers and IPL machines, acne scars can be improved in a series of 10-minute sessions.

Physicians discourage the use of permanent tattoos, but they have unfortunately become commonplace. Unwanted, infected or allergic tattoos can easily be removed with lasers, although tattoos placed deeply with machines and multi-colored tattoos may require many sessions to remove.

Other conditions like moles, wrinkles, pigmentation, different kinds of birth marks, growths, scars, keloids, cancers, vitiligo, psoriasis etc are also easily treated with lasers using light beams of different wavelengths and characteristics.

The main criterion for successful treatment is a qualified dermatologist, who understands and is specially trained in advanced laser physics.

LASER MYTHS

Myth: lasers expose you to radiation.

Fact: lasers are safe since they use light and not harmful ionising radiation. In fact, normal sunlight contains more radiation that triggers cancer than most modern medical lasers.

Myth: lasers are harmful to health.

Fact: laser light penetrates only 1-4 mm into the skin. That is why during laser hair removal procedures only superficial hair roots are destroyed since light cannot reach even till the deeper hair roots. And therefore, certainly, cannot reach or affect any deeper organ in the body.

Myth: lasers can cause burns.

Fact: all modern lasers use the theory of selective photo-thermolysis formulated at the famous Harvard medical school. This basically means that laser light acts likes magic bullets and specifically searches and destroys only the intended target. Thus, for example, lasers using green light will be absorbed only by the red colour in blood vessels. Abnormal blood vessels in birth marks, in broken veins or even within the eyes in diabetics can thus be removed very safely. Just like with any other technology, side effects can happen but chances of burns are minimal with good machines in expert hands.

Myth: laser hair reduction hurts.

Fact: with proper use of scientific methods, during treatments, there is only a feeling of a bit of warmth or of a pin prick sensations. A very occasional patient, especially for sensitive areas like bikini or underarm areas, requires the use of topical anesthetic cream before treatment.

Myth: lasers cause thinning of the skin.

Fact: lasers actually causes thickening of skin after treatments. Skin is living tissue and the controlled gentle heating in the dermis due to laser treatment induces new collagen and elastin formation, replacing the older damaged tissue. That is why lasers have a rejuvenating effect, reducing wrinkles and causing the skin to become plumper. Of course, your laser physician should have a thorough knowledge of laser physics to achieve the desired results.

Myth: lasers are expensive.

Fact: in the long run, it costs more to use razors, waxing, foams, etc. To keep your skin smoothing traditional hair removal methods. Moreover, these methods need to continue lifelong and are tedious and painful. In contrast, with just a few painless sessions over a few months, permanent hair reduction can be achieved with lasers.

Myth: lasers are unnecessary

Fact: there are many medical problems for which lasers are indispensable. There are no medications or creams which can permanently remove unwanted hair, remove scars, birthmarks, tattoos, varicose veins, port-wine stains. Laser technology is similarly indispensable for many other internal medical conditions.

Myth: lasers cause cancers.

Fact: lasers are actually used to remove skin and other cancers. Laser light does not contain wavelengths which trigger cancers.

Myth: stopping laser treatment can cause skin to deteriorate.

Fact: lasers actually cause skin rejuvenation. By aligning and tightening tissue they make the skin appear younger. Of course, the ageing process will continue each year. That is why even after a few sessions, some persons opt for long-term regular maintenance treatment to keep the skin youthful.

Myth: all laser treatments are the same.

Fact: no two lasers machines are exactly the same. Also, no two lasers experts are exactly the same. For optimal results, the laser machines have to be reliable. More importantly, your dermatologist should not only have in-depth knowledge of human skin but also needs to have special expertise and sound knowledge of lasers physics.

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