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Lasers Offer Many Options to Improve Appearance

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Until recently, lasers were primarily used for facial veins. Now, leg veins can be effectively -- and comfortably -- treated with a variety of lasers, depending on the size, diameter, and color of the vein, according to Melanie C. Grossman, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell University Medical School in New York.

New lasers allow more energy to be released into the skin so that the overall treatment is more effective with fewer side effects. "Even larger veins can now be treated, thanks to newer technologies," she says.

Costs for laser surgery range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and because it is cosmetic, insurance companies generally don't pay for it. Still, insurance coverage varies according to the carrier and the nature of the medical problem. Patients should consult their insurance carrier to determine if a procedure is covered by their policy.

Although new lasers are relatively risk-free and highly efficient, their smaller size and portability mean that many more physicians have access to them. "An increasing number of physicians ... are sharing or renting laser resurfacing machines, and the number of complications ... is increasing," according to presenter Mitchel P. Goldman, MD, associate clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego.

The take-home message for consumers, says Grossman, is "do your homework and become educated before undergoing any procedure."

How do patients feel after their laser surgery? "Patients are uniformly happy," Kauvar says. "Most patients say they look younger and that people ask them what they had done."

In the future, lasers will result in shorter recovery times, fewer side effects, and better patient outcomes. The goal, Kauvar says, is to design lasers that are extremely safe and gentle for the patient.

Vital Information:

  • Advances in laser surgery are allowing physicians to safely and effectively eliminate a number of skin conditions, including wrinkles, scars, excess body hair, and facial and leg veins.
  • Improvements are also being made in laser surgery for different ethnic skin types, a population that used to be difficult to treat.
  • With the increased ease of performing laser surgery, more physicians are doing it, and the rate of complications is going up, so patients should educate themselves before having any surgery.

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