Lasers Are Increasingly Being Used to Boost Women’s Well-Being
The first laser — acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation — was produced 58 years ago this week by American engineer and physicist Theodore H. Maiman. Unlike light from a light bulb or the sun, laser light has a single wavelength and can be focused in a narrow beam, making it both precise and powerful. During the 1960s more than 10 lasers were invented using solid, gaseous, semi-conductor as well as liquid lasing media. Refinement and invention of newer lasers has continued over the years with benefits felt and shared across industries and medicine.
In my medical specialty of comprehensive women’s health care, laser technological advancements have resulted in progressive, life-changing, noninvasive medical procedures like the reversal of the effects of vaginal atrophy, which affects more than 40 percent of women over the age of 50, as well as many breast cancer survivors and women who have undergone hysterectomies. In this procedure, a CO2 vaginal laser applies a dual mechanism in which a longer pulse duration combined with the fractional ablative beam creates a small defect that in turn elicits healing (actually over-healing) to add more collagen, elastin and a thick, lush skin barrier —approaching the skin/lubrication of the premenopausal vaginal skin. It also helps the bladder function, especially with nocturia — getting up in the middle of the night to urinate — and with urge and mild forms of stress incontinence.
Even with diet and exercise, many woman have stubborn pockets of fat that seem impossible to lose. Newest laser applications using specific wavelengths that target the fat cell bring about lipolysis, or death of the fat cell.
Global studies validate specific laser treatments help reverse signs of aging. Loss of elasticity, volume and moisture in skin happens over time. When combined with genetics and environmental factors like sun exposure, age-related skin changes (lines, wrinkles, dark spots, folds, etc.) can happen more rapidly. Multiple types of energy can enhance skin tone and texture — including radio frequency and intense pulse light. When added to laser, these other modalities compliment a full range of services for skin revitalization.
Today, providers use different lasers with different characteristics for different skin targets showing signs of aging. Specific lasers with specific wavelengths and tissue affinity go beneath skin surface, building new collagen and enhancing skin tone and texture. For example, a fat-melting laser uses a 1060 diode with fat cell affinity; a fractional C02 laser uses a 10600 diode with water affinity. In pigmented skin lesions, the targeted pigment is melanin, which after absorbing the laser’s energy will break up and disintegrate over the course of a few days, or turn into a scab and simply fall off in one to three weeks. In vascular lesions such as broken capillaries, the laser energy is absorbed by hemoglobin, which instantly collapses and destroys the unwanted vein. Sun damage can be corrected with intense pulse light to correct the browns of sun damage and the reds of small vessels. Results are visible and permanent as long as skincare habits are consistent and sun exposure is avoided.
The application of laser technology and its advancements have come a long way since the first laser was created. Today, the safe and efficient enhancement of lasers for wellness and for the betterment of individuals remains a priority, and the United States represents the largest laser technology market worldwide.
This article originally appeared in the Marin Independent Journal. Dr. Lizellen La Follette is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist in private practice in Greenbrae. She also provides OBGYN healthcare at California Pacific Medical Center and Sonoma Valley Hospital. Her “A Woman’s Perspective” column appears every fourth week.