What are Scars?
The story of our lives often shows up on our skin - scars from that fall off a bicycle, car accident or from surgery. Adolescent acne can leave lasting scars on the face, as can laser-resurfacing and chemical peels. Stretch marks from pregnancy or adolescent growth spurts are among the most common of scars. For many people scars are a disfigurement, something that keeps them from enjoying life to the fullest.
Considerable energy has been invested in efforts to get rid of scars, with less than satisfactory results. Topical creams or cover-ups, the most popular conventional treatments, have left most people wondering, "Why did I bother in the first place?"
There are two basic types of scars: older, "mature" scars that are pale or white in color, and newer scars, that still bear the red or purple tint from a recent trauma to the skin. Light-based technologies are now available to treat both types of scars non-invasively, allowing them to truly fade into the past.
What are Scars?
Of all the tissues in our body, the skin has among the greatest capacity to regenerate itself. That's a good thing, considering that the skin provides a protective barrier between our inside environment and an often hostile outer environment.
Scars are a leftover sign of the skin's attempt to heal itself. A break in the skin is quickly repaired, but the new skin is distinct in its properties and appearance. This frequently results in scars that don't go away. Generally speaking, major scars from surgery or trauma take about six to twelve months to fade to their "final" color.
Early scars are red or purple in color, a result of broken blood vessels and inflammation. These scars are called hyperpigmented. Mature scars are pale or white in color; over time, cell damage from the broken blood vessels and inflammation have resulted in the loss of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Skin that lacks pigment is called hypopigmented. Another term for hypopigmented skin is leukoderma.
People differ in the severity of how they scar. Genetics are believed to play a role in the process. The wound healing process involves a cascade of events and many factors are involved in the repair.
New treatments have been developed that can help scars fade into memory, where most people think they belong.
Over-the-counter oils, ointments and creams haven't proven effective in reducing scar formation.
Up until recently, patients wishing to mask the appearance of scars have not had many options available beyond cover-up products. Conventional topical treatments include:
Formulations containing topical retinoids can be somewhat effective in treating new, red inflammatory scars, but they are ineffective in improving the appearance of mature, pale scars.
Ointments or creams containing glycolic acid and L-ascorbic acid, when used daily, may slightly improve the appearance of mature, white scars. Overall, results have been disappointing.
New Treatment Option: ReLume™ System
Both early and mature scars respond to new light-based technologies providing non-invasive, gentle treatments that can help affected skin more closely match its natural color.
ReLume is the first technological breakthrough to offer a practical treatment solution for skin conditions in which pigment loss has occurred. ReLume achieves selective repigmentation of hypopigmented skin by combining the benefits of safe and effective UV system with the latest advances in targeted light technology. The procedure is painless and safe for all skin types.
Treatments using ReLume are fast and non-invasive. Many people schedule appointments during their lunch hours. Patients usually require brief sessions once or twice a week; improvement in the appearance of mature scars is routinely achieved within six to fifteen treatments.
New Treatment Option: Intense Pulsed Light™ (IPL)
Many physicians are finding IPL a successful approach for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmented (dark red) scars. This non-invasive, gentle approach uses targeted flashes of light to treat dilated and broken blood vessels without injuring the surrounding healthy skin.
Practitioners determine an IPL treatment plan for each patient, taking into account the number and severity of skin conditions being addressed. On average, a series of four to six treatments is recommended, scheduled at three week intervals. Each session usually lasts about 20 minutes, with patients returning to normal activity immediately. By dividing the full program into several sessions, IPL treatments provide gradual, natural improvement with excellent long-term results.
What causes scars?
Scars are a leftover sign of the skin's attempt to heal itself. When a break in the skin's top epithelial layer occurs, cells quickly divide to form daughter cells to fill in the gap. If the wound goes deeper into the underlying connective tissue, cells that form collagen kick into high gear, filling in the gap with a dense mass of fibrous connective tissue. If the dense mass of tissue is small, it is usually replaced by normal tissue over time. If the mass is deep or large, or if extensive cell damage occurs, the fibrous mass remains. These are scars that don't go away. New scars are usually red or purple in color - a result of broken blood vessels and inflammation. These scars are called hyperpigmented. Mature or older scars are often pale or white in color, because the broken blood vessels and inflammation have damaged pigment-producing cells. These scars are called hypopigmented.
Is there any way to mask the appearance of scars or make them fade away?
Until recently there have been few treatment options that truly affected the appearance of scars. Some topical applications, containing tretinoin, have been somewhat effective in treating new inflammatory scars. Used daily, creams containing glycolic acid and L-ascorbic acid may slightly improve the appearance of mature, white scars. New light-based treatments have been developed to treat both new and mature scars. The ReLume™ System is being used to return normal skin color to pale scars. Treatments utilizing Intense Pulsed Light™ can help fade the red and purple pigments associated with new, inflammatory scars.
What is ReLume™ Phototherapy?
ReLume is a targeted light technology for the selective restoration of pigment in scars affected by hypopigmentation or leukoderma. ReLume is the first advanced technology to offer a practical and convenient solution for treatment of skin that has diminished pigmentation. For leukoderma that occurs on stretch marks, acne scars, post-surgical and traumatic scars, grafted skin, burns and laser-resurfaced or chemically peeled skin, lost pigment can now be restored safely and effectively, often within several weeks.
How does ReLume Phototherapy work?
The ReLume system's unique light-based therapy improves the appearance of mature stretch marks by pigmenting skin through precise delivery of therapeutic light. This enhances the production of melanin to darken the coloration of the scar so it more closely matches the surrounding healthy skin. Within six to fifteen weekly treatments, 75% or more pigmentation is typically restored. Prolonged improvement can be achieved through maintenance treatments.
What skin conditions does ReLume treat?
The ReLume has received marketing clearance from the FDA for the treatment of leukoderma (skin that has reduced pigmentation such as white, mature stretch marks, acne scars, traumatic and surgical scars, skin grafts, burns and laser-resurfaced and chemically peeled skin). ReLume is intended for use on all skin types (I - VI).
How do ReLume treatments compare to topical creams and other treatment alternatives?
According to physicians, conventional therapies are largely ineffective in treating hypopigmented, mature stretch marks and scars. Now, the ReLume provides an innovative and effective leukoderma solution with no downtime.
What do patients experience during ReLume treatments?
Treatments are fast and non-invasive. Physicians or staff members can administer rapid treatments during a patient's lunch hour. Patients experience no discomfort during the procedure, and can resume normal daily activities immediately afterwards. Patients may experience minor and temporary redness or irritation within several hours after treatments. These side effects are no more extensive than a mild sunburn. Physicians or staff members can adjust the light dosage used in treatments to minimize these side effects. The primary precaution recommended for patients is the use of protective eye ware.
What improvements can be seen after treatment with ReLume?
Restoration of lost pigment is routinely achieved within six to fifteen treatments. Patients will notice a darkening of the scar so that the coloration more closely matches surrounding skin.
How do patients maintain the improved appearance of treated stretch marks?
Prolonged improvement can be achieved through regular maintenance treatments with ReLume. Lighter skin types (types I - III) will typically benefit from monthly maintenance treatments; darker skin types (types IV - VI) may require less frequent maintenance treatments.
How are IPL™ Skin Treatments used to treat scars?
Many physicians are finding IPL a successful approach for reducing the appearance of new, reddish scars. This non-invasive, gentle approach uses targeted flashes of light to treat dilated and broken blood vessels.
What are IPL Skin Treatments?
IPL Skin Treatments use a non-invasive process called Photorejuvenation to improve the appearance of the skin. It is an in-office procedure performed by a physician or a trained staff member. Treatment programs are developed for each patient based on the number and severity of conditions being treated. Typically, four to six sessions are scheduled at three-week intervals. Treatments last approximately 20 minutes in length.
What can IPL Skin Treatments treat?
IPL Skin Treatments have the unique capacity to treat multiple conditions. They can address the signs of photo-aging, age spots and sun damage (sun-induced freckles), broken capillaries, pigmentary and vascular changes, as well as treating red scars and new stretch marks. IPL treats hyperpigmentation by reducing the effects of excess hemoglobin, which cause redness or purple coloration, and the effects of excess melanin, which cause brown coloration.
How are IPL Skin Treatments performed?
Before treatment, a thin layer of cold gel is usually applied to the area to be treated, and patients are given protective eye wear to shield the eyes from the bright light. During treatment, the smooth glass surface of the IPL handpiece is gently applied to the skin, delivering pulses of light to the area being treated. IPL treatments are usually pain-free, but an anesthetic cream can be used if necessary. Some patients describe the sensation as a light pinch or compare it to the snap of a rubber band against their skin.
Immediately after treatment, patients return to normal routines and activities. Occasionally, there may be signs of treatment such as redness or blotchiness that last for several hours.
Why are multiple treatments necessary?
By dividing the full IPL program into several treatments, the procedure provides gradual, natural-looking improvement with very low discomfort or risk. Results are long-lasting, usually a year or longer.
Are ReLume and IPL treatments covered by insurance?
Insurance reimbursement varies from state to state and carrier to carrier. While most insurance companies do not offer reimbursement for cosmetic conditions, it's best to consult with individual carriers for more information.
Are ReLume and IPL Treatments FDA-cleared?
ReLume was FDA-cleared to market in 2002 for the treatment of leukoderma, or skin conditions in which pigment loss has occurred. Patented IPL technology has been available and FDA-cleared since 1995. IPL treatments using the Photorejuvenation process are recognized as safe, effective and high in patient satisfaction. In addition to treatment of benign vascular and pigmented conditions, scar treatments are included in the IPL FDA clearance.
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