Acne is the most common of all skin conditions among Americans, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. There are a lot of myths surrounding what causes acne. While no one is sure of the exact cause, the AAD believes a combination of excess skin oil, clogged pours, inflammation and P. acnes bacteria is the source. Moderate to severe acne can result in unsightly changes in skin pigmentation and scars, which may be effectively treated with laser technology.
Acne can range in severity from mild to moderate to severe. Almost all cases of acne can be effectively treated, but there is no known cure and even mild cases usually take 1 to 2 months to completely clear. Severe cases may take several months and require a variety of trial and error treatments to find one that works. Acne is not a debilitating or life-threatening condition, but it can have severe emotional and psychological repercussions including low self-esteem, social anxiety and even depression.
The decision to pursue medical procedures to remove acne scars is a personal one and may depend on a variety of factors. A prime consideration is whether the presence of acne scars diminishes a patient’s quality of life. Other considerations may include cost. Some health insurance policies may consider laser acne scar removal as unnecessary cosmetic surgery, in which case, the procedure is not covered and the patient has to pay the costs.
There are two primary types of laser treatments that can improve the appearance of acne scars: ablative and non-ablative lasers. Ablative, or wounding, lasers, such as the CO2 laser and the Er:YAG, burn away thin layers of the surface skin, which allows new skin to emerge. This type of laser skin resurfacing is effective, but requires significant down time of 10 to 14 days. Non-ablative lasers, such as the pulsed dye laser, work beneath the surface of the skin and do not involve the same wounding process as ablative lasers. They typically take several treatments, but usually don’t involve any down time.
Post Treatment Care
Post treatment care for laser acne scar treatments is dependent upon the type of treatment received. Patients should always follow their physician’s advice and instructions. Physicians may prescribe antibiotic medications to help prevent infection and over-the-counter pain medications are usually sufficient to control discomfort associated with the procedure. Patients should avoid exposing the treated skin to the sun until it has healed.
Laser scar removal treatments work best on depression-type acne scars such as boxcar and ice pick scars, according to the AAD. Shallow scars tend to respond better to laser treatment than deep scars. The effects of laser scar treatments are usually not immediate. Improvement is usually seen within a few weeks and the condition of the skin may continue to improve for up to 18 months.