What is a pigmented lesion and which ones can be treated with lasers?
The most commonly treated conditions are solar lentigines, also known as “age spots,” “liver spots” or “sun spots”; café au lait birthmarks; and freckles. These benign pigmented lesions are due to an excess of pigment in the skin, usually due to sunlight exposure and inherited factors. Age spots may appear as enlarged light freckles on the face and hands. Café au lait birthmarks may appear as light brown markings anywhere on the body and can be quite large.
What do age spots look like? And Why Do They Occur?
One very common sign of aging is the age spot. Age spots are also known by many as sun spots, liver spots, lentigos, or lentigines. They vary greatly in size and shape and color. They can be as small as pea-sized or as large as a dime. Age spots are typically round and have irregular borders. Age spots are flat, tan, brown, or black in color and appear on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun. As we age, sun spots appear on the backs of our hands, our forearms, our neck, chest, and face.
The pigment-producing cells in the skin are activated to produce more pigment by ultraviolet rays. Age spots increase in number as we age and as we are exposed to the sun. People who sun burn easily and who freckle easily are more likely to develop age spots than those who do not burn easily. While these spots are not cancerous, patients may be at risk for developing skin cancer if they have age spots. It is very important that patients realize that if you have had enough sun exposure to develop age spots, your chances of getting skin cancer are higher.
What does the treatment involve?
Treatment varies from patient to patient depending on the type of lesion, size of the affected area, color of the patient’s skin and depth to which the abnormal pigment extends beneath the surface of the skin. Some lesions, such as “age spots,” will require only a few pulses, while others, such as café au lait birthmarks, will require more. Some lesions require re-treatment, necessitating multiple patient visits.
Specially filtered bands of light target the melanin in pigmented lesions, where the light is converted into heat. This heating selectively destroys the pigmented lesion, which is sloughed away, clearing the lesion within two to three weeks.
Laser therapy is a safe and effective treatment for sun damage or wrinkles. Advanced laser technology utilizes laser energy that is selectively absorbed by the pigment in the age spot and does not harm the surrounding skin. This is especially good news when we are treating the face.
Is The Process Painful?
The laser emits light in very short flashes called pulses. The impact of the energy from the powerful pulse of light is similar to the snap of a thin rubberband. After the treatment, the area will feel similar to a slight sunburn. Typically, within a day or so, any discomfort disappears. The area may remain reddened for one to three weeks. After the redness clears, the skin is returned to its natural smooth coloring and texture.
Why Doesn’t The Laser Remove My Normal Skin Pigmentation Also?
The laser light was designed for its properties that selectively target dark concentrations of melanin. If after the abnormal concentrations of melanin was removed, and treatment continued on normal skin, some whitening could occur. However, your body’s natural regenerative system would replace the normal melanin after a period of time, returning the skin to its natural state.
How Many Treatment Sessions Will It Take to Remove The Pigmented Lesion?
At least 50% of all common pigmented lesions are removed with one treatment. If a lesion covers a large area, it may be treated in several stages to avoid unnecessary discomfort.
Can The Excess Pigmentation Come Back?
Common pigmented lesions do not return. Some birthmarks may return after a period of several months to a year. However, the procedure can be repeated with similar results.
What Type Of Post-Treatment Care is Necessary?
A shower can be taken the next day, but avoid scrubbing the treated area. Since most common pigmented