Birthmark laser removal is often an effective way to reduce the appearance of a birthmark or even to remove it completely. Various types and colors of lasers are used to close off or slow the growth of capillaries in vascular birthmarks, or to remove or reduce the amount of pigment in pigmented birthmarks. Recovery is usually straightforward, but both the recovery process and the long-term success of laser treatment for birthmarks vary, depending upon the individual and the type of birthmark being treated.
Success Rate for Birthmark Laser Removal
There are two types of birthmarks: vascular and pigmented. Vascular birthmarks include port-wine stains, "stork bites" and "strawberry" hemangiomas. Pigmented birthmarks are caused by an excess of melanin in an isolated area. Pigmented birthmarks include cafe-au-lait marks, which are light brown moles or blue marks known as Nevus of Ota or Mongolian spots.
As a general rule, the success rate for laser birthmark removal is higher for vascular birthmarks than for pigmented birthmarks. Vascular birthmarks occur due to abnormal growth of blood vessels. Blood vessels, especially capillaries, can grow in profusion, creating a tumor-like mass, or blood vessels can grow too wide. Laser treatment involves removing or closing off these blood vessels, leading to the reduction or elimination of the birthmark.
By contrast, laser treatment for pigmented birthmarks can often lighten a birthmark, but might not eliminate it altogether. If the concentration of pigment extends into lower layers of the skin, the laser might remove the top layers. Then, after some time, the lower layers of pigment will migrate into the upper levels of the skin, causing the birthmark to reappear. In these cases, repeat treatments can sometimes gradually lighten or partially eliminate the birthmark.
Different types of lasers are used depending upon the type of birthmark being treated. For best results, see a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon who has extensive experience with birthmark laser removal.
Recovery from Birthmark Laser Removal
Laser treatment uses a high-energy light pulse to treat birthmarks. Before treatment, avoid any medications or supplements that thin the blood. These medications can cause complications during treatment and can also lengthen the recovery time after treatment.
As a general rule, recovery after laser treatment is straightforward and without problems or complications. If any unusual symptoms occur, such as extreme swelling or fever, notify the doctor immediately. After treatment, any or all of the following might occur:
These symptoms should disappear within a week or 10 days, but sometimes last longer. During the recovery period, the skin should be treated gently, avoiding scratching or rubbing as well as exposure to sunlight. The doctor will provide information about any medications to be used to reduce discomfort or to protect the treated area.
A consultation with an experienced doctor will provide a good idea of how an individual birthmark can be treated, as well as an assessment of the expected results. While not all birthmarks can be eliminated, reducing the size or the darkness of a birthmark can greatly reduce its impact and eliminate self-consciousness.