The term laser unit refers to the use of low-intensity or low levels of
laser light. Proponents claim that cold laser therapy can reduce pain and
inflammation. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers these
laser devices investigational (experimental), and allows them to be used in
studies based on some evidence that they may provide temporary pain relief.
Cold laser treatment is thought to help some types of pain, inflammation,
and wound healing, although stronger proof is needed. These lasers are used
directly on or over the affected area.
Lasers units are also sometimes used for acupuncture, with laser beams to
stimulate the body's acupoints rather than needles (see Acupuncture). This
laser unit treatment regimen appeals to those who want acupuncture but who
fear the pain of needles.
Laser unit providers advertise this method as a way to help people quit
smoking, and some TV stations have reported this as news. The laser unit
treatment is supposed to relax the smoker and release endorphins
(naturally-occurring pain relief substances) in the body to simulate the
effects of nicotine in the brain, or balance the body’s energy to relieve
the addiction. Despite claims of success by some laser unit providers,
there is no scientific evidence that shows this is an effective method of
helping people stop smoking.
There is a great deal of variation in types of lasers units that are
used and how they are used. Some devices do not have the output that they
promise, and others are little more than light-emitting diodes (LED lights).
Some advertise that they can help herpes, high blood pressure, migraines,
wrinkles, cerebral palsy, and other conditions for which there is little or
no evidence. The FDA forbids statements that a laser unit treatment can
help or cure diseases if scientific studies have not found it to be true. It
has warned at least one seller of cold level lasers to stop making such
Well-controlled scientific laser unit studies are underway using
reliable low level laser devices for pain, wounds, injuries, and other
conditions. Certain types of cold laser treatment may eventually become part
of conventional medical care.
This method should not be confused with conventional laser surgery, which
is used as a valid treatment for some cancers. Hot lasers may be used to
shrink or destroy tumors on the skin or on the surfaces of internal organs.
They are sometimes used to remove colon polyps or tumors that are blocking
the windpipe, colon, or stomach. They can help relieve symptoms of cancer,
such as bleeding. Laser surgery for cancer is usually combined with other
treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy