WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
July 21, 2008 -- Laser
resurfacing of the skin
may be an effective long-lasting wrinkle treatment, but there may be drawbacks
A new study shows laser resurfacing using a carbon dioxide laser reduced the
appearance of wrinkles by 45% more than two years after
Researchers say carbon dioxide lasers work by vaporizing water molecules
inside and outside cells, which damages the surrounding tissue. The skin's
natural response to this damage is to produce more of the protein collagen,
which reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Most side effects of the high-tech wrinkle treatment were short term, such
as acne, darkening of skin, and infection. But the study
showed 13% of those who underwent laser resurfacing also developed a lasting
lightening of skin color.
"In addition to structural changes, the healing process frequently leads
to pigmentary [coloring] changes," write P. Daniel Ward, MD, of the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues in the Archives of
Facial Plastic Surgery. "These changes in skin pigmentation may be
desirable, such as when patients wish to remove solar evidence of aging;
however, changes in pigmentation after treatment can often be a troubling
In the study, researchers followed 42 women and five men (average age 52)
who underwent carbon dioxide laser resurfacing on their entire face between
1996 and 2004.
The results showed 45% experienced no complications following the wrinkle
treatment. Of those who did have complications, the most common were:
In addition, 2% developed an infection after the laser resurfacing.
After more than two years of follow-up, most of these side effects had
improved, and facial wrinkles had improved by 45% on average.
But 13% of the participants experienced lightening of the skin that
persisted after a year. These patients were also more likely to have had a
greater response to the wrinkle treatment.
Researchers say treatment with chemical
peels using glycolic acid or tricholoroacetic acid may help blend the lines
of demarcation between treated and untreated skin. They say the risk of
developing this side effect may be minimized by advising people to use
sunscreen before and after laser resurfacing treatment.
SOURCES:Ward, P. Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, July/August 2008; vol
10: pp. 238-243.News release, JAMA/Archives Journals.
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