Laser Light Therapy for Acne
Knowing Which Treatment is Best
Acne is controllable with the correct treatment - it's just knowing the best treatment for the sufferer. There are a wide variety of creams and antibiotics that target the various causes of acne, but even with all of these products, an outbreak can be hard to contain. New acne treatments such as blue light therapy or diode laser therapy can be an effective option; however, they're usually reserved for people with cases that have not responded to any other form of treatment.
How Laser Treatments Work
Most of the new laser and light-based therapies go deep into the layers of skin without causing damage to the skin's surface. Some of the laser systems are thought to be damaging to the oil glands, causing a reduction in oil production. Other laser and light therapies target the bacterium that causes acne inflammation, Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). These therapies improve skin texture and lessen the appearance of scars making them good choices for people with active acne or acne scarring.
What's Available These Days?
There are several different light and laser therapies available. Blue light therapy is a painless procedure usually completed in several sessions. The skin is exposed to a low-intensity blue light source that is believed to destroy P. acnes. P. acnes are normal residents of the skin, and are generally harmless. But, when pores become filled with excess oil and dead skin cells, an environment is created that causes P. acnes to multiply rapidly. That is why it is best that light and laser treatment is ongoing. The possible side effects of blue light therapy include redness and dryness in the treated areas. A new combination therapy of red and blue light may be more effective than blue light alone.
Lights and Lasers
Pulsed light and heat energy therapy is thought to destroy P. acnes and shrink sebaceous glands, decreasing oil production. The side effect of this therapy is a temporary redness where the treatment was performed. Diode lasers are capable of destroying sebaceous glands in the dermis (the thick middle layer of skin) without causing harm to the outer layer of skin. Laser treatments can be painful, so analgesics are applied to the skin before treatment. The side effects of this treatment are swelling and redness in the treated area that goes away quickly.
Photodynamic therapy combines topical medications and light-based therapies. A medication called a photosensitizing agent is applied to the skin to enhance the effects of the light therapy. After the application of the agent, therapy with red, blue, pulsed light or another type of light therapy is used. Redness, swelling, crusting and acne flare-ups are common side effects. Photopneumatic therapy uses vacuum suction to remove the oil and dead skin cells from within the sebaceous glands. Following the suction treatment, blue and red light therapy is used to destroy P. acnes and reduce inflammation.
Laser light treatments still have a lot of question marks behind them. For instance, it is not known who would benefit most from these types of treatments, how effective they are, or what the long term risks may be. On top of these concerns, this type of treatment is expensive and may not be covered by medical insurance.
Cystic Acne Treated with Steriod Injections
Cystic acne (nodule and cyst) causes large, painful lumps beneath the skin's surface. They can take a long time to resolve and they cause no end of physical and emotional discomfort. Frequently, steroid injections are used to treat this condition. However, there are complications that can arise from the treatment such as atrophy (thinning) of the skin, the appearance of small blood vessels on the surface of the skin and a change in color of skin tone to lighter than normal. Steroid injections are not a primary treatment; they are used for a temporary fix for stubborn acne lesions, primarily because of the potential complications and the need for frequent visits to the doctor's office.