Laser Therapy Offers Hope For Acne Sufferers

UK research in this week’s issue of THE LANCET suggests that single-dose laser therapy could dramatically reduce inflammatory facial acne for up to 3 months.

Effective new treatments are required for people with acne; this common skin disease can be associated with social isolation, employment difficulties, and occasionally suicide. At present mild to moderate acne is treated with combinations of topical creams and oral antibiotics-treatment that is often unpopular because they need to be taken every day for several months and can cause skin irritation. Furthermore, there is concern that the bacterium responsible for acne is becoming resistant to many of the commonly prescribed antibiotics. Pulsed-dye laser therapy (PDL) is thought to be effective for treating acne, but no previous studies have assessed its potential benefit.

Tony Chu from London’s Hammersmith Hospital, UK, and colleagues recruited 41 adults with mild-to-moderate facial inflammatory acne. 31 patients received one dose of pulse-dye laser therapy (PDL), the remaining 10 patients received sham treatment.

PDL treatment resulted in a halving of scores on an acne scale at three months follow-up; sham treatment had no effect on the acne scale. PDL therapy was well tolerated and had the largest effect within four weeks of treatment.

Tony Chu comments: “Our results suggest that this laser treatment could be developed as a new therapeutic approach that would allow simultaneous treatment of both active acne and associated scarring. We believe that laser treatment should be further explored as an adjuvant or alternative to daily conventional pharmacological treatments.”

In an accompanying Commentary (p 1342), Guy F Webster from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, USA, concludes: “The possibility that laser treatment is effective in acne is important in health economics terms. Infrequent treatments that make drugs unnecessary would benefit all concerned (except drug companies). But we are not yet at the point where acne patients are going to throw out their antibiotics and line up for the laser. More work is certainly needed, both to confirm the clinical benefit and best regimen and to elucidate its mechanism.”

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