When it comes to acne, it’s described as a chronic inflammatory disease of the sebaceous hair follicles. In each follicle, there is a tiny hair and multiple sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands make an oily substance called sebum which travels up the hair follicle and out of the surface of the skin. But with acne, skin bacteria multiplies within the clogged pores and sebum is trapped within the follicle. The face scalp, neck, chest, back, and upper arms and shoulders are areas of the skin where sebaceous glands are most numerous and this is where acne will likely develop. Acne is common in the twenties or thirties but it typically begins in adolescence.
One approach to treating acne is to target the bacteria that produces the inflammation associated with acne known as Propionobacterium Acnes, or P. acnes. P. acnes releases porphyrins, which are naturally occurring molecules in the body. Free radical damage is produced when poryphyrins absorb certain wavelengths of light and this destroys the bacteria.
Absorbing light best in the blue wavelength range of 400 nm to 430 nm are poryphyrins. About 405 nm to 420 nm is considered to be low intensity blue light source and this was studied for the treatment of mild to moderate inflammatory acne. In about 80% of patients, two 15-minute exposures a week for a period of four weeks produced a 60% reduction in acne and this is according to the study. Lasting as long as 3-8 months are reported remissions from acne.
To treat acne using laser technology, you can damage the sebaceous glands by heat or thermal effect. In a recent study, a 1450 nm diode laser was used to perform four treatments one month apart. There was 100 percent clearing of acne in 16 of the 17 patients evaluated six months after the last treatment. There are less oil produced because skin biopsies that are performed immediately after treatment showed heat-induced alterations of the sebaceous glands.
While lasers have been used successfully for acne scarring for years, their use in actually controlling existing acne is a major breakthrough and could be an excellent alternative for those patients who have had minimal success with traditional therapies. But this treatment is still investigational and not widely used despite all this. The procedure is not covered by insurance and not all patients will have access to it.
There are many states that don’t distinguish the people who can and cannot perform procedures with laser/light sources, and this is something patients need to be aware of. Potential side effects are carried by skin treatments using lasers and they should be performed by a qualified physician or under direct physician supervision. Patients are encouraged to ask their physician questions about who will be performing laser surgery, including their qualifications.
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