How Much Does Acne Scar Removal Cost
Acne affects more than 80 percent of teenagers and young adults between 12 and 24 years old. The condition can be embarrassing because it leads to permanent scarring in some cases. There are several types of acne scars, but the most common — at least among teens — are rolling or ice pick scars. These kind of scars usually occur when a large comedo (pimple) bursts open on your face and crusts over before you’re able to squeeze all the gunk out. When this happens, a piece of hardened skin called keratin tends to stick to the follicle underneath. Over time, the hardening causes the follicle to become inflamed, which results in inflammation and swelling. The inflammation makes the follicles look like an enlarged pore, giving them their characteristic appearance. If left untreated, such scars often get worse with age. As the collagen fibers beneath the surface weaken, they form depressions that deepen into pits.
There are many ways to treat severe acne scars, including dermabrasion, chemical peeling, dermal filler injections and surgical procedures such as fat grafting. But these options aren’t always effective or affordable. Laser therapy has been shown to improve the overall appearance of pitted acne scars. However, the procedure itself is not typically covered by insurance plans, so patients will have to pay up front for laser removal of acne scars. Depending on the severity of your scarring, the cost could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average out-of-pocket cost for laser skin resurfacing is around $2,000 for ablative and $1,100 for non-ablative laser treatments. Patients should also expect to spend anywhere from one day to two days at the doctor’s office during the procedure. Afterward, there may be minor bruising and redness, as well as downtime during recovery. In addition, certain lasers used for acne scar removal require local anesthesia rather than general anesthesia, which means that you’ll need someone else to drive you home after the appointment.
If you’ve got deep acne scars that just won’t go away, a dermatologist might suggest trying a less intensive method first, such as prescription medications or topical creams. This way, if you don’t see results within three months, you still won’t have paid anything extra for the visit. You can even try using different products at once to determine what works best for your unique type of skin. For example, you could use a moisturizer with retinoid acid, which helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, along with an exfoliating scrub or mask.
If you decide that laser treatment is right for you, here are the basics about how it works. Read on to learn about the benefits and risks of laser acne scar removal.
Benefits of Laser Treatment for Severe Acne Scars
Although laser therapy is sometimes referred to as “skin surgery,” it actually doesn’t involve cutting much deeper than the top layer of skin. During treatment, a specialized laser light source sends pulses of energy through a fiber optic cable to a handpiece where a wand tip sits above the target area. A fractional CO2 laser emits a beam that targets water molecules in the epidermis (the outermost layer), causing them to break down into oxygen and hydrogen atoms. The process breaks apart cells without harming any underlying tissue. Because only the upper layers of skin are targeted, no painkillers are needed. Lasers work faster than other forms of intense pulsed lights, which gives patients quicker healing times. And since the laser light does the damage, side effects are minimal. Some people do experience mild sunburn-like reactions to the laser beams, but those who want to tan afterward can simply lie under a separate lamp.
While lasers can remove existing scabs, take off thick calluses and help smooth rough areas of skin, they cannot eliminate scars completely. To achieve this, doctors must perform another laser session. They can either repeat the same technique, or opt for a new approach, such as Fraxel laser skin rejuvenation. The latter uses short pulses of light to stimulate melanocytes below the skin’s surface. Melanocytes produce pigment, and stimulating them increases production, allowing pigments to blend together, thus reducing discoloration. Other methods include erbium:YAG, diode and Alexandrite lasers, which each destroy specific proteins that cause inflammation.
The downside of laser acne scar removal is that it requires multiple sessions. It takes anywhere from seven to 10 weeks for the body to fully heal from the procedure. Downtime varies depending on the patient, ranging from a few hours to a couple of full days. And while most patients report experiencing little to no discomfort during treatment, others complain of headaches, dizziness and nausea. Also, if you receive laser treatment and then develop an infection, scarring or keloids (large raised bumps) later, your insurance company may refuse to cover future costs associated with treating those conditions.
To find out whether laser treatment is right for you, contact your physician. He or she will assess your overall health and discuss the various factors involved in deciding whether or not to proceed with scar removal.
Risks Associated With Laser Treatment for Severe Acne Scars
Aside from possible complications during recovery, other potential risks include dry eyes, temporary blindness, bleeding, infections, nerve injury, hyperpigmentation (darker spots caused by uneven distribution of melanin) and scarring.
Because the laser light penetrates only the outer layer of the skin, the risk of postoperative hypopigmentation is low. Darker patches can occur, however, if the skin becomes too irritated during recovery. Hyperpigmentation can also result if the laser burns deeper than necessary. Since the laser removes damaged skin and replaces it with healthy new skin, the chances of developing keloids or irregularly shaped scars are relatively small.
Depending on your medical history, you may also be eligible for coverage under your health insurance plan. Check with your provider to find out what percentage of the total cost is covered. And remember that if you choose to undergo laser acne scar removal, you won’t be able to file an insurance claim until you complete all scheduled appointments. Once you receive your bill, make sure to compare prices across multiple providers to ensure that you’re getting value for your money.
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