Health care in Chiang Mai for an American expat

Here is another experience with health care in Chiang Mai – this time with a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening and also for a cosmetic treatment called Vbeam.

I’ll start with the more serious reason for my visit.

Skin cancer screening

The outside of the skin clinic at Chiang Mail Ram Hospital in northern Thailand, a place where expats get health care in Chiang Mai.
The Chiang Mai Ram Skin Center, at the hospital’s new health center in northern Thailand.

Once every year or so, I get screened for skin cancer because it runs in my family. That won’t stop just because I’m an early retired budget traveler. I simply have to seek out this routine screening in foreign lands.

Since I had such a good experience with my post-breast cancer checkup at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital, I made an appointment with a dermatologist fluent in English at their Skin Center. The skin clinic is actually down the road from the hospital, in a brand new, spotless office building complex called the Chiang Mai Ram Health Center.

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Dr. Siriwit Wongsakul checked me over with an ultraviolet light, and spent extra time on the areas of my sun-damaged skin. There was a nurse in the room during his examination.

Everything was fine, I don’t even have any suspicious areas to watch. The exam cost $30. Same for Tedly’s exam, and he got some face cream so his bill was about double, around $58.

Could health care in Chiang Mai get any easier?

It was during my exam that the doctor offered an easy way to get rid of broken capillaries on my face. These also run in my family, and are further likely to appear after years of sun exposure, drinking and smoking. When Dr. Wongsakul explained the simple procedure and named a price, I was sold.

Vbeam

Now, I’m not a vain kinda girl. I mean, I had double mastectomy with no reconstruction. (My reasons for staying “flat” are here.) I stopped lightening my hair years ago (and it’s getting darker with age), and I cannot remember the last time I bought — or wore — makeup. But this Vbeam thing was so much less expensive compared to the U.S., I couldn’t resist. Also, I had one cluster that formed a rather large red spot on my cheek and the occasional pimple made my cheek hurt (yes, even at nearly 48 years old I still get those).

Not all broken capillaries can be erased with one treatment, but the doctor assured me he could zap away the most obvious ones, which looked like small red lines on my cheeks, including that cluster, which was near the surface.

He was correct – the before and after views of my face are amazing. It made a world of difference in on my cheeks and nose.

Cost and recovery time for this type of health care in Chiang Mai

One treatment was $96. (Edited to add: several treatments are often necessary.)

It took nine days for the bruising to heal the first time. Once the bruises were gone, I could see the broken capillaries were gone, too. No direct sun for at least a week, and you might feel silly walking around the world with purple spots on your face, like suction marks. But there was nothing else to the recovery after the first treatment.

The second treatment went deeper, because the capillaries were deeper. Therefore, instead of several surface purple spots, I had only a few spots – but my face was swollen for a few days where the Vbeam zapped me.

Before each treatment, the doctor told me what to expect during the healing process. And it worked out exactly as he said it would.

What the laser felt like

I read an article (linked below, with before and after shots) where a doctor described it as rubber band being snapped against your skin. That’s exactly what it felt like to me. Also, my eyes were covered with gauze and special goggles, but I still saw flashes of light.

The treatments lasted maybe ten minutes. I counted 40 zaps on my right side, 42 on my left (including the sides of my nose) and 10 on my chin during the second round. (I didn’t think to count them on the first round.)

How long will the results last?

Doc said maybe a few years – if I’m lucky – without sun exposure, heavy drinking or smoking. More realistically, because of my travel lifestyle and a lot of time spent outside on beaches, a year or two before I notice regrowth. But, he also said it will take several years for a cluster of broken capillaries I previously had to develop again. I accept that, and seriously, I cannot expect a couple of treatments for less than $200 to last forever.

Is my face perfect? Nope. It’s perfectly imperfect, with wrinkles, acne scars, and yes, I still have a few broken capillaries. But I’m not interested in more treatments. In fact, it was really just the first treatment that made the most visible difference.

I wish I had taken detailed before photos, but I didn’t. You’ll have to take my word for the dramatic difference that I can see.

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I can offer a few shots from about one year ago where you see the reddish effect from the broken cluster on my right cheek (screen left in both shots, Greece and Albania, 2018.) But keep in mind, it’s a five-year-old iPhone, and the lighting sucks. The cluster looks more like a shadow in the first picture.

That red spot, and several others, are now gone.

Woman smiles at camera after healing from the Vbeam facial laser treatment.

I’m going to be one of the women in this world who ages as nature intends. Au natural. No neck lifts or eye lifts. No tummy tucks or botox fills. This will be the extent of my cosmetic enhancement.

Vbeam treatments cost much more back in America.

Every state and doctor’s office is different, but single treatments can start at $500. That’s yet another reason to seriously consider health care in Chiang Mai – or anywhere else where decent medical facilities exist outside the USA.

For more information on VBeam, I found a contributor’s article in Forbes that’s interesting. She also has good before and after shots, and detailed information about the machinery. That article is here.

For more information on Chiang Mai Ram Hospital’s skin clinic, go here.

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My beautiful daughter! Aging gracefully & naturally is the way to go! I know, I’m doing just that! 💜

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