A laser is a special high-energy beam of light that can be used to treat certain conditions.
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Several types of lasers, each with different properties, are used in a variety of ways to treat different medical conditions. Some devices can be used to cut into tissue, while others work by vaporizing thin tissue layers.
Lasers are commonly used to perform surgery on the skin. Laser procedures can be used to remove wrinkles, tattoos, birthmarks, tumors, warts, and other types of growths.
Lasers are also very helpful for treating eye conditions. Nearsightedness and farsightedness can, in many individuals, be completely corrected with laser surgery on the cornea. Lasers can also be used to treat some forms of glaucoma and eye disease caused by diabetes.
Lasers are being incorporated into surgical procedures on the heart, prostate gland, and throat. They can also open clogged arteries and remove blockages caused by tumors. Currently, lasers are used only for parts of these operations but, as laser technology improves, there is some expectation that knives and scalpels may one day be eliminated entirely.
Lasers have the advantages of increased precision and reduced rates of infection and bleeding. Computers are used to control the intensity and direction of the laser beam, helping to reduce human error.
Like any other surgery, however, laser surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or a reaction to the anesthesia medicine. Specific risks depend on the type of surgery being performed.
Sabiston's Textbook of Surgery, 1997, Sabiston Internet search