What is laser therapy?
Laser therapies are medical treatments that use focused light. Unlike most light sources, light from a laser (which stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) is tuned to specific wavelengths. This allows it to be focused into powerful beams. Laser light is so intense that it can be used to shape diamonds or cut steel.
In medicine, lasers allow surgeons to work at high levels of precision by focusing on a small area, damaging less of the surrounding tissue. If you have laser therapy, you may experience less pain, swelling, and scarring than with traditional surgery. However, laser therapy can be expensive and require repeated treatments.
Laser therapy may be used to:
- shrink or destroy tumors, polyps, or precancerous growths
- relieve symptoms of cancer
- remove kidney stones
- remove part of the prostate
- repair a detached retina
- improve vision
- treat hair loss resulting from alopecia or aging
- treat pain, including back nerve pain
Lasers can have acauterizing, or sealing, effect and may be used to seal:
- nerve endings to reduce pain after surgery
- blood vessels to help prevent blood loss
- lymph vessels to reduce swelling and limit the spread of tumor cells
Lasers may be useful in treating the very early stages of some cancers, including:
- cervical cancer
- penile cancer
- vaginal cancer
- vulvar cancer
- non-small cell lung cancer
- basal cell skin cancer
For cancer, laser therapy is usually used alongside other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
Laser therapy is also used cosmetically to:
- remove warts, moles, birthmarks, and sun spots
- remove hair
- lessen the appearance of wrinkles, blemishes, or scars
- remove tattoos
Who shouldn’t have laser therapy?
Some laser surgeries, such as cosmetic skin and eye surgeries, are considered elective surgeries. Some people decide the potential risks can outweigh the benefits of these types of surgeries. For example, some health or skin conditions may be aggravated by laser surgeries. As with typical surgery, poor overall health also increases your risk of complications.
Talk to your doctor before deciding to undergo laser surgery for any kind of operation. Based on your age, overall health, healthcare plan, and the cost of laser surgery, your doctor may recommend that you choose traditional surgical methods. For example, if you’re younger than 18 years, you should not get Lasik eye surgery.