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What are the difference between laser treatment and intense pulsating light treatment?

I have a couple spider veins on my face and am considering treatment options. I see a lot out there about laser treatments and something called intense pulsating light treatment. What exactly are the differences between the two?


Doctors Answers (6)

Intense pulsed light uses a xenon flash lamp and filters to produce an intense spectrum of different light frequencies that are shifted by the internal filters in the hand-piece to peak at a certain frequency. These treatments are excellent for Rosacea of the face, and very fine matted capillaries in most areas. Lasers produce intense light in only a single frequency and can also be used to treat small (red and purple veins) and some smaller sized (blue) reticular veins, but is limited by skin color and tans, discomfort, and has a reduced effectiveness compared to sclerotherapy on leg veins. Lasers are excellent for small face, neck and chest veins, but seldom a good choice for the leg veins due to the increased size, depth and venous pressure in leg veins.

Intense pulsed light treatment uses full spectrum light, with filtering of lower wavelengths depending on your skin tone, to deliver energy that is attracted to the red blood in the spider veins or brown spots on the skin. As these blood cells absorb energy, the vessels are destroyed and reabsorbed by your body. Laser energy uses one single wavelength of light, preferentially one that targets blood, to injure the vessel allowing eventual reabsorption. We use both methods in our practice, and I tend to customize it to how many facial spider veins are present, and if there are other skin issues that could be treated at the same time. For instance, if you have multiple vessels, or any sun damage or age spots, a series of intense pulsed light treatments could accomplish everything at once, leaving your skin more even in tone, younger and healthier in appearance. If you only have a few small vessels, and your skin is overall beautiful, you could opt for laser treatment with an experienced medical practitioner.

Laser is an intense or amplified monochromatic single wavelength light and intense pulsed light is light of many wave lengths that are amplified. They both can work for spider veins, but in my experience they are often not the best.

All of these are different ways of using light and heat energy. For the larger and more visible spider veins on the face we use a very specific laser which targets the blood on the veins. It works very well. We use Dornier Flexipulse. In addition to this we will add IPL for a broader coverage of the diffuse fine veins which cause redness. If there is rosacea present we use Laser Genesis instead, which causes superficial heating and can reduce and control redness.

Lasers emit single wavelength light, usually very focused, and have the potential of high energy density. Intense pulsed light (IPL) is not a laser. IPL is very bright (intense) white light that consists of hundreds of different wavelengths. Some IPL devices have filters that only allow some of the wavelengths to pass through. IPL is not tightly focused, and can usually treat a larger area more quickly than a narrow laser beam. For small, thin spider veins on the face, both laser and IPL will usually work.

Both work well, but you need to have an evaluation to best decide.

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