Vascular lasers selectively target unwanted or abnormal blood vessels in the skin, whilst minimizing damage to surrounding normal skin structures. The target of the vascular laser is hemoglobin, the red protein in blood cells in the blood vessels. Skin cells that surround the dilated blood vessels are not damaged.
Types of vascular lasers
- Continuous or quasi continuous wave lasers
- Argon laser
- Argon pumped tuneable dye laser
- Krypton laser
- Copper vapour and copper bromide laser (now rarely used)
- Potassium Titanyl Phosphate (KTP) laser
- Pulsed lasers
- Pulsed dye laser (PDL)
- Long-pulse dye lasers
- Frequency-doubled Q-switched Nd:YAG laser
- IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light which is not a true laser but can be used to treat vascular lesions by using filters to deliver an appropriate wavelength of light.
Vascular lasers are safe if used by experienced and professionally trained staff. Pulsed dye lasers have been used since the 1980s to treat port wine stain birthmarks in babies and children. They are NOT associated with an increased risk of cancer in the long term.
It is best to avoid laser treatment when the skin is heavily tanned as this treatment increases the possibility of colour changes in the skin. It is very important that you follow your practitioner’s pre and post treatment instructions.
vascular laser treatment
A laser practitioner will assess your condition and its suitability for vascular laser treatment. You may be advised to stop any non-essential blood thinners (such as aspirin) or supplements (such as fish oil) for 1 to 2 weeks prior to treatment to minimize the risk of bruising. Anaesthetic creams may be used prior to treatment to minimize discomfort in the area being treated.
During treatment, most individuals are reclined or lying down, depending on the area being treated. Both you and your laser practitioner will be wearing protective eye wear. Laser parameters will be set according to your specific condition, skin type and other individual factors. Many lasers have a bright “flash” during treatment and feel like a hot elastic band being snapped against the skin.
You may be given cold or ice packs to cool the area after treatment to reduce swelling and discomfort.