Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Treating Melasma with Laser

More than 50 million women worldwide experience melasma, which is often refractory to conventional treatments such as topical lightening creams, sunscreens and chemical peels.

Recently, doctors have made significant progress using laser therapy to manage the condition and greatly improve the quality of life for patients.

What is Melasma ?

Melasma, also known as “Chloasma” or “mask of pregnancy” is a common cosmetic problem. It appears as a dark skin discoloration commonly found on the upper cheeks, nose and forehead. Melasma is often associated with female hormones and is especially common in pregnant women, women taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause. Sun exposure is also a strong risk factor for melasma.

How does laser reduce pigmentation ?

Pigment lasers such as the Q-switched Nd:YAG laser effectively breaks down excessive skin pigments without damaging surrounding tissues. Laser energy is selectively absorbed by melanin. Unlike topical creams, laser energy can target deep within the dermis, so dermal (deeper) pigmentation can be effectively treated.

Photo source : ezlady.com.tw
Obvious pigmentation reduction is seen on the right photo after Q-switch Nd:YAG laser 

What are the risk and side effects associated with laser therapy ?

In the hands of a well-trained doctor, Q-switch Nd:YAG laser therapy is extremely safe. Rarely, patchy hyperpigmentation (darker then normal skin colour) or hypopigmentation (lighter then normal skin colour) can occur. This complication is usually transient. 

How many treatments are needed ?

Generally six to eight treatments are recommended to observe significant pigmentation reduction. Each treatment takes 10 to 20 minutes, with no recovery time needed.

Additional Benefits of Treating Melasma with Laser

Laser treatment also have the benefit of skin tightening and overall rejuvenation. The Q-Switched Nd:YAG laser may stimulate collagen production, minimize fine lines and reduce pore size. This is a welcome addition to clinical success in melasma treatment.

A combination of laser therapy, topical lightening cream and sunscreen is recommended for the successful treatment of melasma. However, there is currently no permanent cure for melasma and ongoing touch-up treatments are necessary to maintain successful outcomes.