Laser for Pigmented Lesions and Tattoos
Menlo Dermatology uses a Spectra Q switched laser system to remove pigmented lesions commonly known as age spots or sun spots, freckles, and certain birthmarks. These pigmented lesions contain abnormally high concentrations of melanin. Melanin is the pigment in our skin which determines skin color. Some pigmented lesions are present at birth or shortly thereafter, such as café-au-lait lesions. Most commonly, dark lesions occur as an indicator of sun damage. The energy from the Spectra Q switched laser system is carefully directed onto the skin and patients experience a sensation similar to the snap of a rubber band. Usually one or two treatments suffice, afterwards there is a silver color and mild bruise which resolves in 1 to 2 weeks. The same laser can also be employed for tattoo removal. The number of tattoo removal treatments can vary from 6 to 10 or more, usually administered at 6 week intervals. The cost and number of treatments are dictated by the individual tattoo.
Lasers and Vascular Lesions (Spider Veins)
Telangiectasias are small thin blood vessels visible beneath the skin. They are commonly known as “broken capillaries on the face, and as “spider veins” on the legs. These blood vessels on the face are acquired over time as a result of sun exposure, genetic factors, and the common disease rosacea. Certain patients experience stinging and burning on the face, others are discomfited by their complexion. Blood vessels on the legs are caused by a variety of factors, including heredity, hormonal influences, pregnancy and weight gain, and are estimated to affect nearly half of all adult women in the US. Some people experience painful symptoms such as aching, burning, swelling and cramping from larger leg veins, while others are bothered by their appearance.
The pulse dye laser was approved by the FDA in 1988, and has been an enormous advance in dermatology, treating port-wine stains and other birthmarks that were previously considered disfiguring. Menlo Dermatology uses the V-Beam laser manufactured by Candela Lasers. The pulsed dye laser delivers a particular wavelength of light in short bursts that are absorbed by targets within blood vessels. The top layer of the skin, the epidermis, is protected from excessive heat by an integrated cooling device built into the laser; this cooling also provides an anesthetic effect. Many conditions which have excess blood vessels can be corrected, such as broken capillaries on the face, rosacea, port-wine stains, and cherry angiomas. Pink scars, stretch marks, and warts all respond very well. The treatment is tolerable, producing a brief stinging sensation. Special eye goggles are worn by both the patient and the treating provider. Depending on the type of lesion being treated and the settings of laser energy employed, temporary swelling may occur, and bruising can result which may persist for several days. Bruising is aggravated by aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil and Aleve, and therefore those items should be avoided for 1 week prior to appointments.
Conventional treatment for spider veins is sclerotherapy, please see that section of our website. For veins that do not respond to sclerotherapy or for very fine, matted spider veins, we use the pulse dye laser which has the advantage of avoiding injections. Bruising and discoloration can occur, and take several months to resolve. For larger varicose veins, we refer patients to a vascular surgeon for treatment with endovenous laser therapy, which treats large veins by passing a laser fiber through a catheter directly into the vein. Your physician will discuss the options with you after examination.