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Healing Old Wounds

Scarring, especially on visible areas of the body such as the face, neck or arms, can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing problem, reports The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.

But all those red marks and pitted scars don't have to be permanent.

For Megan Forsha, an accident that happened when she was 5 years old still affects her today.

"I ended up flipping over the handlebars and landing on a rock and splitting my head open," she says.

She had a "scar revision" two years ago. The procedure involves surgically excising the scar, removing the previous scar, and realigning the margins of the wound in a more favorable orientation, says Dr. Altheo Cambre. It's probably the most aggressive treatment available.

Now Forsha wants to further reduce the appearance of that old scar on her forehead, using laser therapy.

Overgrown or raised scars like Forsha's are usually treated with a pulse dye laser like the Vbeam. It can have great results.

"This is really an experimental therapy, where we have been combining a solution called Levulane which activates the blood vessels in the scars and allows the Vbeam laser to target the blood vessels in the scars more effectively," says Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas.

Overactive blood vessels are the cause of raised scars, but it's the opposite when the scar is indented or depressed.

In these cases, a laser with a long wavelength, like the Smoothbeam, can stimulate the skin, turning what was once a permanent mark into a faint memory for doctors and their patients.

"What we're doing is turning on those cells to make the collagen to the appropriate amount," says Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas. "You can just see that they're breathing with great levity, and they're very, very pleased that it makes a very big impact on their quality of life."

The earlier you're able to treat a scar, the better, advises Senay. If you're in an accident and need stitches, you'll want to consult a plastic surgeon as soon as possible.

There are things that you can do while the wound is healing to diminish the appearance of scars. You can put silicone sheeting or gel on some scars while they're healing (that changes the environment around the wound and helps make scars thinner, and not as raised and discolored).

The treatments can cost a few hundred dollars each and medical insurance generally does not cover them.

For a small scars, sometimes just one treatment will do the trick. But for thicker, larger ones and for indented scars, you may need three to five treatments.

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