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Acne is irritating not only when it is active, but even after it heals. This is because it leaves behind unpleasant scars and pigmentation. Laser therapy is the best known way of dealing with these scars and pigmentation issues. It is a misconception that laser treatment is a new form of skin therapy. Laser is being used to treat pigmentation scars since 1964, however, the procedures have evolved significantly and become much more improved and effective.
How does laser therapy work?
Lasers direct intense amounts of monochromatic light at precise points on the skin. This light is emitted in short pulses. When this light hits the skin it heats the hemoglobin cells. The precision with which lasers direct this light ensures that surrounding cells are not affected.
By changing the amount of light, lasers can be used to address cells at varying depths of the skin. In the case of scars, they can destroy the excessive melanin deposits causing a scar. It can also boost collagen production.
In most cases, lasers used to treat skin issues are carbon dioxide or argon lasers. Laser therapy may be short pulsed or long pulsed. The difference between the two lies in the rest period between emitting bursts of light. The type of laser therapy used depends largely on the degree of scarring or hyperpigmentation.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Laser treatment
- One of the biggest advantages of this form of therapy is its precision. Laser therapy does not affect the surrounding cells. It is also a bloodless form of therapy that does not require any hospitalization. As compared to other forms of skin therapy for scarring such a dermabrasion, laser therapy does not increase a person’s risk of infection.
- On the flip side, laser treatment does not work well with all types of scars or all skin types. Also, some people may require multiple sessions for results to be noticeable. In cases of scarring on dark skin, laser lights can wound the capillaries in the skin. As the skin in this area heals, it may become lighter than the surrounding skin. Laser treatment can also cause raised scars known as keloids when used to treat dark skin. These scars cannot be treated with laser therapy and requires additional treatments. Laser treatment is also a little more expensive as compared to other forms of therapy.
- If you choose to undergo laser treatment to remove scars and pigmentation, it is important to have realistic expectations. Do not expect your skin to be perfect after the procedure. While there will be an improvement, do not assume that 100% of scarring will be removed.
A common skin condition, which causes the discoloration of your skin in patches across the face, melasma is more of a social embarrassment and cause for distress rather than being a serious condition. Although it affects men as well, studies have shown that over 90 percent of patients are women. It is also known as the mask of pregnancy as many pregnant women develop this skin condition.
Causes of Melasma
Primary causes of melasma have been attributed to various hormonal changes within the body. Let's look at some of the factors that may cause this disorder:
- Pregnancy: This is often attributed as the leading cause of melasma, the primary cause has often been attributed to hormonal changes that a woman may experience due to pregnancy.
- Treatments that may change hormonal balance: Women on contraceptive pills or who have implants such as intrauterine devices may also develop this disorder. This is due to the balance of estrogen and progesterone being changed within the body.
- Sun exposure: Continued sun exposure may also lead to melasma. This is due to the activation of melanocytes within the body which start producing more melanin.
- Stress: Long periods of stress on the body can also trigger hormonal changes and cause melasma.
It has also been noticed that people with generally a darker skin tone tend to get melasma and it is less common in people with fairer skin.
Certain characteristics of Melasma
Melasma develops in certain patterns which can be easily diagnosed either as spots on the skin similar to freckles or brown patches of skin that grow bigger. Some of these patterns are:
- Malar pattern: This grows on the nose and cheeks
- Mandibular pattern: Starts growing around the jaw line
- Lateral cheek pattern: Grows on the cheek on both sides of the face
- Centrofacial pattern: Nose, upper lips, forehead and cheeks
Treatment of Melasma
Most women who develop melasma during pregnancy report that it goes away after childbirth. However certain forms of melasma may appear in non-pregnant women due to hormonal changes. Treating the underlying hormonal changes usually, resolves the problem. However, certain other methods may be required to resolve the issues such as skin creams and chemical peels.
In medical world, there are countless accidental discoveries. Doctors realise that something used for one purpose can be used for another condition. The side effect of one drug could be used to treat another disease altogether. There are numerous instances but the botulinum toxin would be the first that comes to the mind.
The neurotoxin extracted from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum was used to treat blepharospasm, which is an eye condition where there is an excessive muscular contraction. It blocks the release of the chemical acetylcholine, thereby blocking the muscle contractions. It is actually a neurotoxin and causes temporary paralysis of the muscles. Eventually, it began to be used for cosmetic reasons to paralyse muscles that cause ageing and frowning.
Gradually, Botox made its way into more remedies including removal of wrinkles, cerebral palsy, migraines, excessive sweating, bladder spasms and depression. There are many studies relating how Botox has improved a person’s happiness quotient. Read on to know some substantiating facts:
Anti-aging Effects: One of the common things we all smile at is ourselves – the reflection we see in the mirror. Botox is an anti-aging agent beyond doubt and is the most common agent to reduce wrinkles and reduce aging effects. When you are happy with what you see in the mirror, you definitely feel good and happy. This is something that gets spread and overall emotional well-being is improved.
Anti-frown: Botox injections are also done along the frown lines, where the muscles responsible for frowning are treated. This ensures the person is less frowning. The effect is contagious. When you see someone not frowning or unhappy, you loosen up and lose that frown too (or smile if you did not have a frown in the first place). This effect spreads and the overall environment or ambience just becomes a happier one. The same applies to the anger expression. There is less anger that is visible on a person’s face, and therefore, the other person/people perceive less anger. This ensures there is a smoother environment.
So, the next time you think of Botox, do not just think of the various celebrities who fail to age over decades. The Botox could be giving them more reasons to be smiling and happy.
Eczema is not a disease per se, but is a name given collectively to a group of medical conditions, which can cause the skin to become inflamed and irritated. Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common types of eczema.
While the exact cause of eczema is not known, the most commonly attributed reason is an increasingly sensitive immune system. The overactive immune system produces antibodies, which cause these skin reactions. It is also noted that people with allergies including hay fever and asthma are more likely to develop eczema.
There is also a genetic predisposition, and children whose parents have had eczema are likely to develop eczema.
In most people, eczema is present in the form of small blisters, which are filled with fluid and can ooze. Gradually, there could be dryness, crusting, scaling and thickening of the skin with plaque formation. The most common symptom would be itching. The different types of eczema as noted above would have diagnostic features. For instance, when testing for irritant or contact dermatitis, there would be an irritant that is causing this. Stasis dermatitis would have circulatory issues and often affects the lower legs.
For a trained medical eye, diagnosis of eczema is not a tough task. A complete physical examination may be done to assess the extent of eczema spread. Blood tests may be done to test for allergies. In very rare cases, a biopsy may also be required.
The goal of treatment is to reduce itching and improve moisturization. Eczema, unless associated with an infection, is not contagious.
Using copious amounts of creams and lotions help in improving hydration and moisturization, as they are allowed to soak into the skin.
Associated infections like scalp infections and fungal infections should also be treated with suitable products.
Immunomodulator creams are useful by suppressing the immune system and preventing flare up of the allergic reactions.
Cold compresses may be used to relieve itching.
Since there is a strong genetic component related to eczema, prevention is helpful.
Constantly keep the skin moist and hydrated by using moisturizers, especially during winters.
Avoid clothes and metals which can cause allergy- like wool, nickel, harsh soaps, detergents, etc.
Avoid or be careful about food items which are known to cause allergies.
At any point of time, only 90% of your hair is growing. The remaining 10% is resting and falls off after 2 to 3 months to make space for new hair follicles. Thus, while it is normal to shed a few strands of hair a day is normal, waking up to find multiple strands of hair on your pillow can be a nightmare for anyone.
Hair loss can be of many types and in order to treat it, you must first figure what type of hair loss you suffer from. Some of the main types of hair loss are:
- Involutional alopecia: This type of hair loss affects people who are middle aged and older. In such cases, more and more hair follicles go into the resting phase after which they fall off. The hair that remains becomes shorter and brittle making it easier to break.
- Telogen effluvium: Telogen effluvium is a temporary condition that causes changes in the hair follicle’s growth cycle and puts a number of hair follicles into the resting phase simultaneously. This is often experienced after a stressful event like a severe illness, childbirth, stress or sudden weight loss, and can last for anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.
- Male and female pattern baldness: For males, hair loss at the top of the scalp in an ‘M’ shape which gradually turns into a ‘U’ around the side of the head is a sign of pattern baldness. This condition makes hair follicle thinner, shorter and brittle and is triggered by genetic conditions. Both male and female pattern baldness have very gradual hair loss and so you may not notice significant thinning until quite late.
- Patchy hair loss: One of the most noticeable symptoms of this type of hair loss is one or two smooth, hairless spots. Apart from the scalp, it can also affect the eyebrows, arms, legs and facial hair. In most cases, this has a sudden onset. However, when hair grows back in one bald spot, it may fall out from another. In some cases, the hair may not fall out but may break, leaving behind patches of extremely short hair.
- Tinea capitis: This is a contagious fungal infection that affects the scalp of school-going children. It makes hair in certain patches or all over the scalp break off and triggers inflammation in the scalp. Pus-filled sores and a scaly scalp are other symptoms of this condition.
- Trichotillomania: Hair fall can also be triggered if you twist or pull your own hair. This psychological disorder often affects children and causes hair loss by breakage.
Gone are the days when hair fall or hair problems were primarily associated with old age. In today's world, the environmental pollution, stress, health problems have made hair loss a common problem. People in their early 20's and 30's are suffering from severe hair loss. The hair fall, thinning scalp, baldness in both men and women (often an outcome of Alopecia) brings about endless humiliation and mockery. With self-confidence gone for a toss, hair fall also affects the overall appearance of a person (makes a person look aged and unattractive). For people dealing with severe hair loss (often permanent), hair transplant surgery comes as a savior that can put an end to their misery.
What is Hair Transplantation?
In hair transplantation, we have a donor site and a recipient site. The donor site contains the healthy hair follicles that can be used for the hair transplantation. The recipient site, on the other hand, is the site where the transplantation is to take place. Thus, a hair transplantation in simple terms is a procedure that involves the transplantation of hair follicles from the donor site (can be from the sides or the back of the head) into the recipient site for permanent hair restoration. In this regard, it is important to mention about the two widely used hair transplantation techniques- the Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and the Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).
Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT):
- Also known as the Strip Method, in FUT, a strip of tissue is obtained from the donor site.
- The next step involves extraction of the hair follicles (using stereomicroscope dissection) of the preferred size (from the obtained tissue strip).
- To carry out the grafting of the extracted hair follicles, the surgeon uses instruments with fine needle points to mark the recipient site.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE):
- For the hair transplantation, the follicular units (from the donor site) need to be isolated from the neighboring tissues.
- For the segregation, tiny incisions (circular cuts of about 1mm) are carried out in the skin comprising of the follicular unit.
- The follicular units thus obtained are then grafted into the recipient site.
When compared between the two (FUE and FUT), FUE being less invasive with a quick healing time is the more preferred hair transplantation technique.
The eligibility criteria for a hair transplantation
Not everyone with a hair fall problem is eligible for a hair transplantation. For a person (irrespective of their sexes) to undergo the hair restoration procedure
- People with medical conditions such as Diabetes, Chronic liver or kidney ailments, Hypertension, HIV, need a proper medical consultation and evaluation before opting for the hair transplantation.
- People with Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia should refrain from the hair transplantation surgery.
- There is no age limit for hair transplantation. However, in patients below 18 years, one needs to be careful as their pattern of hair loss is still not clearly established.