Thursday, April 9, 2009

And it burns, burns, burns... the ring of fire

I had my first laser treatment on Tuesday, and I wanted to share the experience here in the blog, in case anyone is considering trying it.

Excimer laser treatment for psoriasis is used primarily for people with stubborn but smaller and contained plaque areas. The laser's highly concentrated UVB light treatments have been proven more effective than other treatments for many folks, and can put psoriasis into remission for several months. has a nice description of the treatment here.

I have plaque psoriasis on my scalp and on my elbows, and the Humira and topical ointments have not reduced these patches, so my dermatologist and I decided to give the laser a go.

First - getting on the calendar. The scheduler went ahead and scheduled all 10 of my appointments up front. Geez... scheduling those appointments took longer than the first laser treatment. I'm still not sure what was so challenging, but it took that patient woman about 20 minutes, 3 phone calls and a supervisor coming in to help to get me on the books. I'm going to be seen at 11am every Tuesday and Friday through the first week of May.

On Tuesday, I showed up about 5 minutes early, and was seen right on time by the physician assistant, who will be my laser-lady for every visit. We had a brief conversation about what to expect from the treatment and where I wanted to be lasered, and then she had me sign a consent form. This took about 7 minutes.

Laser-lady then asked me about how easily I sunburn, and adjusted the laser accordingly. Apparently, treatment is started at the lowest level, and then is gradually increased over time until it becomes too intolerable. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the hope is to avoid blistering (even though it puts you in remission sooner).

The laser itself is at the end of a wand, about the same diameter as a half dollar. We both put on safety glasses, and the treatment began. Laser-lady placed the wand over each area we wanted to treat, and pressed a button. The wand glowed blue for about 1 second, and then beeped and changed color to red when the laser shut off. Because the patch on my right elbow is bigger than the wand, she moved it several times, each time pushing the button to activate it.

Then we moved on to my scalp, and behind my ears.

The sensation is warmth, at least with these first treatments. Towards the end of each second, just before the beep, you can feel a bit of heat. But not much. I expect that as we increase each treatment, the heat will increase and it will get more and more unpleasant. But this was not unpleasant at all.

The entire treatment took about 5 minutes. Really. Took me 4 times as long just to drive to the office.

For the first day after the treatment, my scalp felt a little warm, but not very. My elbow is bright red now, not covered in whitish plaques, and feels a little raw. But other than that, I feel nothing.

My next treatment is tomorrow. So far, so good.

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