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2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-9917

Release: Immediate

New UIHC laser clears away certain facial skin blemishes

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A new medical device at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is allowing dermatologists to provide many patients with nearly painless removal of common skin blemishes. The diode laser, which does not require anesthesia, eliminates many visible facial vessels, age spots and sun freckles.

Currently, few medical centers offer the diode laser, which UIHC dermatologists began using in December, said Duane C. Whitaker, M.D., UI professor of dermatology and director of dermatologic surgery.

Using a wand-like handpiece connected to the laser source, the physician directs a beam of concentrated light to the area needing treatment. The light is absorbed by red blood cells in the visible veins or by melanin found in an age spot or freckle. The unwanted cells then decompose, leaving healthy cells intact.

"With the diode laser, we can offer an advanced treatment option for patients with prominent facial redness or other blemishes," said Whitaker. "Visible blood vessels, brown spots and rough patches are very common on sun-exposed areas of the skin, particularly as we age. Most patients have found the results of the diode laser treatment gratifying and fairly convenient."

Some patients need only one or two treatments to remove blemishes. "It's very fast," said Christopher J. Arpey, M.D., UI assistant professor of dermatology and associate director of dermatologic surgery. "We can treat a single blood vessel in a few seconds. You can usually see the improvement right away." Arpey added that the treatment cost is moderate considering laser technology is used.

In addition to treating the common effects of aging, the diode laser is used to treat more serious facial skin disorders such as extensive sun damage or rosacea, an adult form of acne. It can even help diminish disfigurement caused by rheumatic diseases such as lupus. "It's not a cure, but it is a good supplemental therapy to the use of systemic or topical medications," Arpey said.

The diode laser treatment risks are minimal. During the procedure patients may feel a "warm sensation" that goes away in a few minutes. There is a very small risk of scarring or bruising, and some patients may experience superficial flaking or redness that lasts a few days. Certain patients may require pulsed-dye laser treatments in combination with the diode laser. The pulsed laser is commonly used to treat vascular birthmarks.

Arpey said that if patients don't respond in one or two treatments with the diode laser, then it probably won't help them with their facial skin problem. "Some blood vessels are more stubborn than others," he said. "But we can give many people substantial improvement with the diode laser."

A dermatologist can best determine whether a person seeking treatment for a facial blemish or skin disorder should consider the diode laser as an initial treatment option or for use along with other treatments. As with all medical care, you should first consult your personal physician.

Individuals interested in finding out more about diode laser treatments at the UIHC may call the UIHC Dermatology Surgery Scheduling Line at (319) 356-7684.


[EDITORS: Video footage of the diode laser treatment is available. For more information, contact Tom Moore, director of visual media, UIHC Joint Office of Communications and Marketing, at (319) 356-3945.]