It seems so simple and virtually painless. Often it’s advertised as requiring “no downtime.” There are no scalpels or stitches. Just a beam of focused light particles. How gentle does that sound?
You can see why lasers have appeared in surgical, injury recovery and cosmetic practices everywhere. Today, you can find lasers used for facials, hair removal, eye surgery, dental surgery, cancer treatments, pain management, and much, much more.
But lasers are still dangerous equipment, not something that should be wielded by amateurs. High-powered lasers are used to cut diamonds. Remember that when someone is suggesting, casually and flippantly, that it would be no big deal to use them on your flesh.
Of course, lasers are an excellent innovation for many medical and cosmetic procedures. When operated appropriately, they can lead to less painful or invasive surgeries and reduced recovery time. Just remember, a laser is not a toy.
There are still risks and factors to consider, and providers can face malpractice actions if they fall short of a standard of care. The number of lawsuits over laser surgery has steadily been going up.
Here are some of the risks and safety issues you should consider before going under the “beam.” Remember, a quality provider should be able to answer questions like this with ease.
1. What training has the person handling the laser undergone?
No matter whether it’s getting a quickie laser facial, Lasik to correct your vision or laser hair removal, you need to make sure the person administering the treatment has been properly trained on the equipment. They need to not only know how to use the laser, but also be aware of its related safety hazards, and the effects of its exposure to different tissues at different doses, as well as on other materials.
For instance, with some lasers there is a flammability risk, creating a hazard if alcohol is applied to the tissue at issue. With others that risk is absent. Don’t be afraid to ask about training clinicians have undergone. It’s important.
2. What kind of laser is involved?
Different lasers have different properties, and while you cannot be expected to become an expert in lasers before undergoing your procedure, your clinician should be. Many lasers used on the skin include YAG lasers, which emit infrared light, and IPL or “intense pulsed light” lasers which employ a broad spectrum of wavelengths. Eye surgery is usually performed using an excimer laser, which employs ultraviolet light. Excimer lasers are also used in the production of microelectronics.
3. What is the appropriate aftercare?
All laser procedures, from tattoo removal to corrective eye surgery, should be given with proper instructions for promoting recovery and healing after the procedure. That may mean you need to stay out of direct sunlight, avoid makeup and lotions, or use prescription medications.
Remember even if no knives were used, there is still a risk of infection. Always follow your provider’s recommendations to ensure the best possible outcome, and minimize the risk of side effects or complications.