Conditions + Treatments

Pulsed Dye Laser In-Depth

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What kind of conditions can be treated with a pulsed dye laser?

The commonly treated conditions include the following birthmarks:

What's the treatment like?

During the treatment, the physician will hold a wand against the skin and "pulse" the laser. Your child will wear eye protection because laser light can potentially harm the eyes.

At the first session, the physician will probably test your child's skin reaction to the laser. Other sessions may be longer (up to 30 minutes) in order to treat a larger area. Some lesions (spider angiomas) may require only one or two treatment sessions, while larger lesions (port wine stains) require four to 10 sessions.

Is the treatment painful?

The laser light feels a bit like a rubber band snapping against the skin. There is often a tingling or burning sensation for up to six hours after treatment.

Most adults tolerate the procedure without anesthesia. Some children may require anesthetic or medication to relax them.

What are the side effects?

  • Immediately after the treatment, a purple discoloration appears at the treatment site. This lasts for seven to 10 days. As this color fades, the treated area may still look red, but will slowly fade to normal skin color over the next few weeks.
  • Crusting may develop in the first several days and last up to two weeks.
  • Some children may experience a temporary brown discoloration of the skin for several months.

What precautions need to be taken before/after treatment?

  • Help your child avoid direct exposure to the sun for 3 weeks prior to the treatment. Sunburn and suntan may absorb the laser light and make the treatment less effective.
  • Treated skin may also be overly sensitive to the sun and should not be exposed for several months. A sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater is suggested.
  • Avoid aspirin and aspirin-like products for 14 days prior to treatment.
  • An antibiotic ointment and a bandage may be applied immediately after treatment.
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