All-rounder laser – in fact, this is the impression given to many who are looking for new treatment methods and therapies. Lasers are touted for solving a wide variety of problems such as reducing wrinkles, correcting scars, and removing hair (eg. hair removal at Facebar YYC). Lasers are also known to remove tattoos, pigment spots, age spots, bags under the eyes, freckles, and even spider veins. There are lasers to correct ametropia, whiten teeth, remove tooth decay and periodontal disease, break up kidney stones, destroy tumor tissue and even treat tennis elbow.
The laser has experienced the greatest boom in recent years in the fields of dermatology, aesthetic medicine, and ophthalmology. But lasers are also used in ear, nose, and throat medicine, phlebology, urology, and sports medicine. “Meanwhile, lasers are being used in more and more areas,” says Dr.-Ing. Arnold Gillner from the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen. “The laser market is growing continuously by around eight to ten percent a year. This is also due to the fact that new and even more powerful devices are constantly coming onto the market. As long as that is the case, the growth will continue.”
The problem: In most cases, the patient has to bear the costs themselves. Now the devices are sometimes extremely expensive. To ensure that the investment pays off, treatments are also recommended whose benefits have not been scientifically proven. But where does the use of lasers make sense? And how does a laser actually work?
The principle is easy to explain: With the laser, the beams of light are focused on the cells and lead to a change in the tissue. The medical field of application is determined by the wavelength – i.e. the color of the laser light – and its pulse duration, i.e. whether the radiation is continuous or pulsed. The wavelength determines where the light is absorbed. “Depending on the respective wavelength, the laser light is absorbed in different depths of the tissue and leads to the activation of cell processes up to and including thermal destruction of the tissue cells,” explains Fraunhofer expert Gillner. However, there is not just one laser, but umpteen different types – starting with the pulsed UV laser, which corrects the ametropia of the eye.
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Precise and gentle instrument
Lasers are a popular medical aid precisely because they have unbeatable advantages. Prof. Dr. Raimund Hibst, head of the Ulm Institute for Laser Technologies in Medicine and Measurement Technology, explains: “The laser beam is almost parallel and can therefore be focused very sharply. In addition, the laser light is monochromatic, which also allows its site of action to be controlled by adapting it to tissue absorption. For example, it is possible to selectively occlude blood vessels in the skin or to remove the inside of the cornea without damaging the surrounding tissue. When used properly, the laser is an extremely precise and gentle instrument.”
Laser treatment is widely known, especially for the correction of ametropia. Laser eye surgery has become increasingly popular over the years. This is not surprising, considering that more than 20 million people in Germany are dependent on glasses because of their nearsightedness or farsightedness. “Their eye length deviates from its natural shape,” explains Prof. Dr. Christian Mardin, Senior Physician at the University Hospital Erlangen. As a result, myopes see perfectly at short distances but not at long distances; Far-sighted people, on the other hand, only see well at longer distances. Both of these types of ametropia can be corrected with the help of the established Lasik method, which around 150,000 Germans opt for each year. “Lasik is actually the best procedure here,”
“Lasik” is an abbreviation and stands for “laser in situ keratomileusis”. During the procedure, the patient lies flat on their back and is initially given eye drops to numb them. The eye is then sucked in by means of a suction cup, so that eye movements are no longer possible and the laser can process the cornea in peace.