Excimer Laser Treatments
Excimer laser treatments use the power of ultraviolet (UV) light to treat a wide variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis, vitiligo, and atopic dermatitis. To perform these treatments, skin doctors use a handheld laser to deliver a concentrated dose of ultraviolet light to cause beneficial changes to the treatment area. This use of light, also known as phototherapy, makes excimer laser treatments quite different from other skin therapies available today.
Laser Treatment for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic skin condition, which appears as inflamed, thickened red areas of skin. The affected areas may also be itchy and scaly. The location of affected areas will vary from person to person, as will the duration, shape and pattern. Traditional approaches to treatment for psoriasis includes repeated application of topical ointments several times a day. While there is no cure for the condition, laser treatment for psoriasis can help patients manage symptoms, without messy creams.
Laser Treatment for Eczema
Eczema causes patches of itchy, inflamed, swollen, and cracked skin. These symptoms can flare up, disappear for a while, and flare up again. Exposure to smoke, pollen, soaps, fragrances, or other environmental triggers can cause flareups. Eczema develops as the result of an overactive immune system in which immune cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells. Laser treatment for eczema eliminates these overactive cells to cause a remission.
Vitiligo Treatment with Excimer Lasers
Vitiligo is a condition in which skin loses its color in blotches. This color loss occurs when the cells that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color, die or stop functioning. Depending on the type of vitiligo, depigmentation may affect skin on many parts of the body or in a few areas, or just on one side of the body. While researchers are still working to determine the exact cause of vitiligo, they do know that it is not contagious or life-threatening. There is no cure for the condition, but vitiligo treatment with excimer lasers can help.
How do Excimer Laser Treatments Work?
Light travels in waves; some types of light waves are very long and other wavelengths are quite short. Scientists measure wavelengths in nanometers (nm). The type of light you can see, or visible light, measures 400 to 700 nm. UV light has a shorter wavelength, measuring 100 to 400 nm. Scientists further classify UV light into UVA (315-400 nm), UVB (280-315 nm), and UVC (100-280 nm).
Light of different wavelengths can have different effects on the body. The long wavelengths of UVA light can penetrate deep into the middle layers of the skin; exposure to UVA light can cause signs of aging, such as wrinkles, and may play a role in the development of skin cancer. UVB light penetrates only the top layers of skin; exposure to the full spectrum of UVB light can cause sunburns and cancer too.
However, targeted, controlled and concentrated doses of very specific wavelengths of light can have beneficial effects on skin cells. Excimer laser devices emits UVB light measuring 308 nm, which is known to have therapeutic effects for certain skin conditions. This wavelength of light can eliminate the overactive immune cells that cause symptoms of eczema, for example, and can help re-pigment skin affected by vitiligo. Excimer laser treatments can also treat psoriasis when the condition is confined to smaller patches of skin, such as the elbows, hands, feet, or scalp.
Benefits of Excimer Laser Treatments
There are many benefits of using ultraviolet laser treatments over other therapies. These benefits include:
- Precision – a UV laser targets affected skin and spares surrounding healthy tissue from exposure
- Comfortable – Unlike other types of laser treatments that can cause discomfort, excimer lasers are pain-free
- Fast recovery times – laser treatments cause virtually no downtime for patients
- Effectiveness – treatment with excimer lasers provides rapid results and long remissions, even in cases where the condition has not responded to other treatments
What Happens in an Excimer Laser Treatment Session?
The FDA-approved excimer laser is a handheld device that delivers a concentrated dose of UV light to the skin. The skincare professional moves the device over the surface of the patient’s skin in a fast, comfortable treatment session, performed in a doctor’s office or other outpatient settings. Treatment takes only 5 to 10 minutes, and requires no special preparation or diets.
Treatment plans usually feature laser treatment sessions twice a week for several months. The goal of treatment is to cause a remission, or temporary reduction in symptoms of the condition. While excimer laser treatments are not a cure for vitiligo or psoriasis, they can be an effective part of the patient’s overall treatment plan to reduce symptoms.
Patients begin to experience positive results after just a few sessions, and enjoy several months of treatment-free remission at the end of the course of treatment. After excimer laser treatments, patients enjoy greater self-esteem and improved quality of life; many are glad to wear their favorite clothing that shows off their healthy skin. Patients often celebrate freedom from having to apply messy steroid creams several times each day.
For more information about excimer laser treatments, contact Center for Dermatology & Laser Surgery. We provide the excimer laser vitiligo patients rely on to help correct loss of skin color, as well as ultraviolet laser treatments for eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Excimer laser Treatment
Can Excimer Laser Cause Cancer?
Exposure to UVB rays can cause sunburns and skin cancer. Fortunately, excimer laser treatment does not increase the risk for skin cancer because it delivers a targeted super-narrow UVB band only to the affected areas, and spares surrounding skin tissue. This means that excimer laser treatments focus on only affected areas of the skin and that healthy skin remains healthy.
Does the Excimer Laser Work for Vitiligo?
Yes, excimer laser is a very effective tool for treating vitiligo. In fact, patients with vitiligo experience exceptional results in just a few months instead of years. Excimer laser vitiligo treatments provide long-lasting results.
How Does the Excimer Laser Work for Vitiligo?
Using a wand-like device, a dermatologist aims a highly-focused beam of UVB light onto the lightened areas of skin. The UVB light stimulates the pigment-producing cells, known as melanocytes, that may be present deep in the patient’s skin. Stimulating the melanocytes with UVB light can stimulate the production of the pigments that give skin its color. This process, known as repigmentation, restores color to the white patches that characterize vitiligo.
What are the Side Effects of Excimer Laser Treatment?
Significant side effects of excimer laser are uncommon, but some people may experience temporary redness, itching, burning or stinging, darkening/lightening of the treated skin, blistering, and scarring.
How Effective is Excimer Laser?
Research shows that excimer laser treatment is highly effective. In one study, participants experienced greater than 75 percent repigmentation of their facial vitiligo after undergoing excimer laser treatments for 10 to 20 weeks. In another study, participants saw a 67 percent improvement in their vitiligo lesions in some parts of their bodies, such as their face, trunk, arm, and/or leg after just 13 treatments.
Excimer laser is also effective for treating other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
Is Excimer Laser Treatment Permanent?
Excimer laser treatment provides long-lasting results, but the results are not always permanent, as autoimmune disease, neurogenic factors, genetics, sunburn, stress and chemical exposure can trigger the return of vitiligo or other skin conditions.