Sizing up laser treatment complications

Laser treatment is popularly used to affect many different conditions, problems, imperfections and nuisances. As with any aesthetic procedure, it is always advisable and important to look into or consult your doctor about any possible side effects, risks or complications. With laser, in essence, there are short and long-term considerations, regular and adverse side effects that need to be explored, before going ahead.


Why choose laser treatment?

Various types of laser devices, single and multiple courses, are utilised in different ways, to treat a variety of indications. Complaints, such as wrinkles, stretch marks, fat pockets and cellulite, sagging and dull skin, to be tightened and brightened, as well as unwanted tattoos, scars, pigmentation and hair, can all be resolved, improved, reduced or removed, with varying doses of a range of laser treatments available. The potential and possibilities are vast and exciting, in the quest for youth and beauty.

How safe is laser treatment really?

Innovations, particularly in the last decade, in the field of aesthetic laser treatment and their devices have improved the safety and efficacy of treating a myriad of indications. Safety is always a huge concern for all doctors carrying out such treatments, and communication is key to instilling confidence in patients and assuring they are informed about all the risks, as well as the benefits. This also ensures that both doctor and patient are able to successfully manage a positive outcome. Provided the treatment is sought out in a professional clinic or hospital, with fully-trained physicians applying the treatments, aesthetic laser treatments can be generally considered safe, as long as you follow the advice and instructions of your doctor, pre- and post-treatment.

What are the common complications to watch out for?

The unique properties of laser energy, which is converted to heat, when absorbed by the skin, allow it to be used therapeutically and in a targeted manner. There are both desirable and undesirable effects of such treatment. Desirable effects would be the reduction or eradication of a problem or condition, while the undesirable effects are known as complications. Such common complications are pain or sensitivity, burns to the skin due to the heat, inflammation or swelling of the treated or surrounding area, hyper-pigmentation or skin darkening, temporary or less frequent permanent scarring, and erythema, which is a reddening or flushing of the skin. However, many treatment methods combine cooling and numbing pre-procedure, in addition to the application of medicinal creams and oils post-procedure, to limit the contra-indications, reduce healing time and maximise results.

Will laser treatment cause much discomfort?

Pain levels are relative from one patient to the next. Your individual tolerance will determine how sensitive you are to the laser. Some people have a much higher threshold for pain than others and feel little or nothing, while others may experience a degree of discomfort that can be regulated by the application of anesthetic cream, to numb the area to be treated. The cream is applied in advance and left to take effect, before the laser is employed. During the treatment you may feel a warming below the skin, and afterwards the sensation may be akin to sunburn, which is managed with a different type of laser treatment cream, applied for up to several days to soothe.

What other symptoms can be expected in the short-term?

Depending on the type and intensity of treatment, it is expected that your skin will redden. This temporary flushing of the skin, known as erythema, is due to increased blood flow, part of the healing process and inflammation of the affected area. This will generally last for up to three days, fading gradually and should be of little concern, as it subsides along with inflammation and any swelling. As the skin heals itself, despite the correct use of the creams provided by your doctor, you may experience itching, scabbing or flaking skin, which is usually nothing to be concerned about. If, however, any symptoms persist, you should revisit your doctor.

Are there any longer-term causes for concern?

With darker skin tones and sun-tanned skin, there is a risk of hyper- or hypo-pigmentation. Almost always temporary in nature and relatively common, hyper-pigmentation responds very well to topical bleaching therapy and the darkening fades over time. Hypo-pigmentation is also common, especially with tattoo, pigment fleck or hair removal, and is usually transitory, although in some cases more permanent. It is often associated with a course of multiple treatments. In both cases, skin pigment should return to normal within three to four months at most. Scarring is a permanent complication, but has become a rarer outcome with newer technologies. It occurs when excess damage is caused to the collagen during treatment, which impacts the skin surface. The damage can be heat-induced burns, or arise from post-procedural infection. Any severe burns or infection should be treated as early as possible, to avoid permanent scarring.

What can be done to aid faster healing?

The unique attributes of individual skin types mean that complications can happen, even under the hand of the most trained and experienced practitioner. However, there are a number of easy courses of action to follow, to limit any damage and promote a speedier recovery. Be sure to have an open dialogue with your doctor and address all concerns, before treatment. The more informed you are, the better the outcome will surely be. Avoid any over-exposure to the sun prior to treatment, and afterwards stay out of the sun, while the healing process takes place, or cover-up and apply a good, non-irritant sun-factor product to exposed skin. Follow doctor’s instructions to the letter and whilst healing, avoid harsh soaps, gels or abrasives to treated areas. Drink plenty of fluid and eat skin healthy foods, rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin E. Finally, get plenty of rest, as the time when we are sleeping permits our bodies to heal and regenerate more effectively.