Laser & Light Facts

The word LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Medical lasers use an intense beam of light to gently remove unwanted, damaged, or diseased cells without harming the surrounding healthy cells. The laser's energy may be delivered as a continuous wave of light or in pulses, depending on the treatment and the type of laser used.

How is laser therapy used?

Medically, laser therapy can be used to treat vision problems and various forms of cancer, including melanoma. In the cosmetic field, however, this form of therapy can be used to remove warts, moles, sun spots, skin tags and birthmarks, as well as rid unwanted hair and tattoos. It can also minimize the appearance of wrinkles, stretch marks, scars and blemishes.

Are laser treatments safe and do they hurt?

Lasers have been used successfully in hundreds of thousands of treatments. Laser treatments performed properly, by a trained physician or dermatologist, are safe and effective. In terms of pain, laser treatments cause minimal discomfort. For ablative laser and light-based procedures, general anesthesia will be administered to reduce pain. Because non-ablative procedures are less invasive and cause little discomfort, no anesthesia or sedation is required.

What should I know before and after having laser light therapy?

Your specialist may ask that you avoid tanning beds, sunbathing, waxing or applying chemical agents to the skin two weeks before treatment. Depending on the treatment site, you may also be asked to avoid wearing perfume, deodorants or any products that could irritate the skin before or after treatment. Additionally, you will need to avoid herbal supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin, as this will reduce your risk of bleeding.

After laser light therapy, your recovery will vary depending on the type of procedure rendered. If the laser treatment is ablative, you may need to stay at home for a few days to allow for healing and to reduce the chance of infection. If the procedure is non-ablative, it is likely you will need no downtime and can return to your normal, daily activities soon after the procedure.

How many treatments are required?

The number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated, as well as the size and location of the treatment area. Spider veins on the face and age spots, for example, generally do well with one or two treatments, while darker or deeper birthmarks may require additional treatments. Port Wine stains and hemangiomas usually experience satisfactory results from laser treatments; however, as many as six to eight treatment sessions may be required. Treatment sessions may be spaced apart to allow your body time to remove the maximum amount of pigment cells or dead cells. To find out how many treatments you will need, consult with your treating physician.

How will I know if the treatment works?

Before having laser light therapy, go over your goals and expectations with your treating physician to ensure you both are on the same page and that you are aware of what to expect and when. With laser light therapy, you may need several treatments to achieve your desired goal. One way to measure the success of your treatment is to take before and after pictures of the area being treated.

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