They are medical treatments that use focused light.
Unlike most light sources, light from a laser is tuned to specific wavelengths.
This allows it to focus on powerful beams. The laser light is so intense that it can be used to shape diamonds or cut steel.
In medicine, lasers allow surgeons to work with high levels of precision by focusing on a small area, damaging less surrounding tissue.
If laser therapy is used, you may experience less pain, swelling and scarring than with traditional surgery.
However, laser therapy can be expensive and require repeated treatments.
Laser therapy can be used to:
- Reduce or destroy tumors, polyps or precancerous growths.
- Alleviate cancer symptoms.
- Eliminate kidney stones.
- Remove part of the prostate.
- Repair a detached retina.
- Improve vision
- Treat hair loss as a result of alopecia or aging.
- Treat the pain
Lasers can have a cauterization or sealing effect and can be used in:
- Nerve endings to reduce pain after surgery.
- Blood vessels to help prevent blood loss.
- Lymphatic vessels to reduce swelling and limit the spread of tumor cells.
Lasers may be useful in the treatment of the earliest stages of some cancers, which include:
- For cancer, laser therapy is usually used along with other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
Laser therapy is also used cosmetically to:
- Remove warts, moles and sunspots.
- Remove the hair
- Decrease the appearance of wrinkles, imperfections or scars.
- Remove tattoos
Some laser surgeries, such as cosmetic surgeries for the skin and eyes, are considered elective surgeries.
Some people decide that the potential risks can outweigh the benefits of these types of surgeries.
For example, some health or skin conditions may be aggravated by laser surgeries.
As with typical surgery, general health problems also increase the risk of complications.
A few days before surgery, it is recommended to take precautions, such as stopping any medication that may affect blood clotting,
Laser therapy techniques vary according to the procedure.
If a tumor is being treated, an endoscope (a thin, lighted, flexible tube) can be used to direct the laser and see the tissues inside the body.
The endoscope is inserted and then the surgeon aims the laser and reduces or destroys the tumor.
In cosmetic procedures, lasers are usually applied directly to the skin.
Some common laser surgeries include:
- Refractive eye surgery (often called LASIK).
- Teeth whitening.
- Cosmetic removal of scars, tattoos or wrinkles.
- Elimination of cataracts or tumors.
Different lasers are used for different procedures. For example, carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers make surface cuts.
They are often used for superficial cancers, such as skin cancer.
Argon lasers also make surface cuts and can be used to activate photosensitizing drugs (activated by light) during photodynamic therapy.
This type of cancer treatment combines light with chemotherapy to kill more cancer cells.
Low level laser therapy is also called cold laser therapy. It uses laser light configured in wavelengths between 600 and 980 nanometers.
The laser is used to perform minor surgeries and promote regeneration in the tissue.
Laser therapy has some risks. Risks for skin therapy include:
- Changes in skin color.
In addition, the expected effects of the treatment may not be permanent, so it may be necessary to repeat sessions.
Some laser surgeries are performed while you are under general anesthesia, which entails your own set of risks. They include:
- Pneumonia .
- Confusion after awakening from the operation.
- Heart attack.
Lasers are more accurate than traditional surgical instruments, and cuts can be made smaller and shallower. This causes less damage to the tissue.
Laser operations are usually shorter than traditional surgeries.
They can often be done on an outpatient basis. Patients also tend to heal faster with laser operations.
You may have less pain, swelling and scarring than with traditional surgeries.
The recovery after laser surgeries is similar to that of a typical surgery.
You may need to rest for the first few days after the operation and take pain medication until the discomfort and swelling have subsided.
Recovery after laser therapy varies depending on the type of therapy you received and the area of the body affected by the therapy.
If a prostate surgery with laser is performed, it is possible that a urinary catheter should be used.
If it is skin therapy, you may experience swelling, itching and roughness around the treated area.
During the first two weeks after treatment, the following should be done:
- Use pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Clean the area regularly with water.
- Apply ointments, such as petroleum jelly.
- Use ice packs
- Avoid removing any scab.