How are lasers and energy-based devices used in dermatology?
Dermatology is one of two of the earliest medical applications for lasers. The application relies on the ability of lasers to operate at a specific wavelength. Lasers are now widely used in dermatology for tumors, tattoo, hair, and birthmark removal. The type of laser and the wavelength of its emissions depend on the type of lesion being treated and what the main absorber is within it. The wavelength also depends on the patient’s skin type. Currently, the CO2, holmium, thulium, KTP, KDP, LBO, Nd:YAG, and high power diode laser technologies are available for use in soft tissue applications.
Benefits of lasers and energy-based devices in dermatology
Each laser operates within a very narrow wavelength range and the light emitted is coherent. They can also be very powerful. The beams can be focused to a very small point, giving them a high power density. These properties have led to lasers and energy-based devices to become the mainstay tools of what dermatologists can do for patients.
Recent advances in lasers and energy-based devices in dermatology
Dermatology has benefited recently from excimer lasers, which emit in the ultraviolet range. The high-power ultraviolet output of excimer lasers also makes them useful for dermatological treatment. Xenon chloride (308 nm) excimer lasers can treat a variety of dermatological conditions, including: psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, alopecia areata and leukoderma.
The ultraviolet light from an excimer laser is well absorbed by biological matter and organic compounds. Rather than burning or cutting material, the excimer laser adds enough energy to disrupt the molecular bonds of the surface tissue, which effectively disintegrates into the air in a tightly controlled manner through ablation rather than burning. Thus excimer lasers have the useful property that they can remove exceptionally fine layers of surface material with almost no heating or change to the remainder of the material which is left intact.
As light sources, excimer lasers are generally large in size, which is a disadvantage in their medical applications, although their sizes are rapidly decreasing with ongoing development.