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By Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo, BSN, RN
Laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) is an unusual light source that produces a very narrow beam of light. Today, laser technology has a wide array of applications, including in dermatology.
What is Laser Technology?
Laser technology emits a beam of coherent light through an optical amplification process. There are many types of laser that can be used across many applications.
A laser contains five main components: gain medium, high reflector, laser pumping energy, laser beam and the output coupler. A laser is formed when the electrons in special glass, gas or crystals atoms absorb energy from another laser to become excited, or from an electrical current.
The excited electrons transfer from a lower energy orbit to a higher energy orbit around the nucleus of the atom. The moment they return to their normal state the electrons release photons (particles of light).
The laser comes from focusing photons of light on a single spot, making it more powerful than a beam of normal light. Laser technology has many applications, including astronomy, communication, computer devices, cutting equipment, robotics, surgery, health, barcode readers, fiber optics and 3D scanners.
Laser Technology and Its Benefits in Dermatology
Laser technology in dermatology is a new way to treat skin diseases and promote skin health. The use of lasers in clinical and practical applications is becoming popular in various specialized centers and in research.
However, lasers are not new to the world of dermatology; in fact, they have been used for over 20 years. The first laser applications were used to treat cutaneous vascular lesions. The use of laser technology in dermatology is continuously growing, thanks to researches and innovations conducted by experts.
History of Laser Technology in Dermatology
In 1963, the “father of lasers in medicine”, Leon Goldman, was the first to use the laser in dermatology. In his first studies, he reported the effects of Maiman’s laser in destroying cutaneous pigmented structures, like black hairs. Aside from that, he discussed the potential use of the Q-switched device and ruby laser in the removal of tattoo and treatment of nevi and melanomas, which are pigmented lesions.
Furthermore, he investigated the use of carbon dioxide lasers for the photo-excision of skin lesions and Argon lasers to treat vascular formations. Goldman also studied using lasers in treating dermatological conditions and laser as a potential diagnostic tool. After Goldman’s discoveries, it was not until in 1980 that laser therapy was revolutionized by the selective photo-thermolysis theory, formulated by John Parrish and Rox Anderson, and the rest is history.
Laser Technology Applications in Dermatology
The type of laser used depends on its penetration. For instance, ablative lasers work mainly on the epidermis or top layer of the skin. The non-ablative laser works only on dermal collagen or middle layer of the skin and fractional laser works on both the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin.
Today, laser technology is widely used in various dermatological applications. The most commonly used are dermatological lasers for surgery. Surgical lasers include carbon dioxide, erbium and holmium lasers, which are used to treat skin conditions. Carbon dioxide lasers are effective in surgical procedures but can also be used in treating various skin or mucosal conditions. These include actinic cheilitis, scars, epidermal nevi, sebaceous adenomas, warts, melanin stains, oral papillomas, basal cell epithelioma, xanthelasmas and neurofibromas.
Other uses of laser technology in dermatology include removal of hair, skin rejuvenation, laser-based diagnostics, fractional photothermolysis, treatment of vascular lesions, ablative skin resurfacing and interactions during treatment of pigmented lesions or tattoos.
- Lawrence Livemore National Laboratory. (2019). https://lasers.llnl.gov/education/how_lasers_work
- Gianfaldoni, S., Tchernev, G., Wollina, U., Fioranelli, M., Roccia, M.G., Gianfaldoni, R., and Torello, L. (2017). An Overview of Laser in Dermatology: The Past, the Present and … the Future. Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5535675/
- Saﬁ Eldin, Yousif & Shamad, Mahdi. (2005). Use of Laser in Dermatology. Journal of Dermatology. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272023792_Use_of_Laser_in_Dermatology