Brown spots (pigmented lesions) are caused by a proliferation of melanocytes or an increased deposition of melanin in the dermis and/or epidermis. Melanocytes are the cells that manufacture melanin, which is the dark pigment in skin. Most of us have some pigmented lesions in one form or another. They include brown spots (lentigines), freckles (ephileds), moles (nevi) or birthmarks, Dermatosis Papulosis Nigra (small black marks primarily seen on people of Asian or African descent). Different lesions require different lasers and number of treatments. Your doctor will help you chose the best treatment.
Are laser treatments safe?
Lasers originally began their use as medical instruments for the treatment of nevi and tattoos in the early 1960’s. Since then, lasers have been safely and effectively used by many specialties, including dermatology and plastic surgery for a wide range of treatments. In the hands of a trained healthcare professional, the use of a laser is safe and effective. If a patient has a family or personal history of melanoma then treatment of nevi must be done carefully, if at all.
How many treatments are needed?
The number of treatment sessions depends on the size, location, depth and color of your lesion. Age and sun spots generally do well with one or two treatments, while darker or deeper birthmarks may require additional treatments, however as many as six to eight treatment sessions may be required for some lesions. Treatments are usually 4 to 8 weeks apart to allow your body to remove the maximum amount of pigment cells. You will continue to see a lightening of your lesion after each treatment as your body disposes of the pigment cells.
What is the benefit of using a laser over excisional surgery?
Surgical removal of a lesion requires cutting out the entire area which often leaves a scar, and if the area is too large, complete excision may not be possible. Most patients will see a dramatic improvement, however, as with any surgical procedure, there is always a possibility that only minor changes will occur and in rare cases there is no response.
Lasers have been used successfully in many different skin conditions and when treatment is performed properly, by a trained healthcare professional, are safe and effective.
Are treatments painful?
Some patients say they feel a slight sting, like the snap of a rubber band on the skin, followed by the feeling of sunburn. Many treatments do not require anesthetics, however, some patients feel more comfortable with a local numbing agent like ice or an anesthetic cream. For others, a local anesthetic injection may be beneficial.
How does the laser work?
A laser generates a beam of intense, concentrated light. This beam of light brings energy to a specific site, through a small handpiece connected to the laser. For pigmented lesions we use a laser that is absorbed by melanin/pigment (black or brown pigment found in the skin) causing destruction of unwanted cells while leaving healthy cells intact.