Treating Keratosis | The Good And The Bad Side Of Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy, also commonly known as cryosurgery, is one of the several treatment modalities for keratosis – along with curettage, laser therapy, electrocautery or even a surgical procedure. According to research reports, it follows surgical procedures in the ranking of procedures most commonly carried out to remove skin lesions maybe due to its availability even in the doctor’s office.

To help eliminate warts and keratosis, both unwanted types of skin lesions, cryotherapy uses extreme cold to render these lesions frozen, dried and readily peeled off from the skin. Due to ineffective trials in removing deeper and thicker lesions, this regimen is commendable only for superficial or flat lesions.

Now, let us try to comprehend the mechanism of cryotherapy! At the site of the injury, such as where the skin lesions can be found, cryotherapy constricts the blood vessels, including the arteries and the veins. This blood vessel constriction, most commonly referred to as vasoconstriction in medicine, results to a reduction in the blood flow to the site. Because of lesser blood supply, the cells cannot obtain the nutrients that they normally get from the blood including oxygen. In the end, the cells then die – a process called necrosis.

Examples of the materials  used in cryotherapy to produce  extremely low temperatures, called cryogens, are liquid nitrogen, carbon dioxide snow and DMEP or dimethyl ether and propane.  But amongst the three, liquid nitrogen is the most commonly exercised cryogen by physicians primarily because of its low boiling point, making it a highly effective cryogen.

Using any tool that would restrict the doctor’s direct contact with liquid nitrogen such as a cotton bud, a spraygun or a probe, the physician starts the process by directly applying the liquid nitrogen onto the client’s skin. Then, the heat from the skin instantly transfers to the liquid nitrogen making it evaporate quickly, usually within a minute or so. Thawing of the skin lesions then succeeds this short freezing time. Then when the cell’s contents leak out into its surroundings called the interstitial space, rest assured the cryotherapy has started the actual cell injury. To conclude the process, the client’s skin will exhibit signs of inflammation – redness, swelling, pain and warmth – signaling the cells’ decompensation.

There are generally minimal adverse effects when the physician performs the treatment according to the guidelines. But like many other procedures, complications can and will arise. One of this is hypopigmentation, or the loss of skin color due to a reduction in melanin production, which is the result of deep or prolonged freezing by the liquid nitrogen.

Due to its dangerous effect on people exposed through direct contact, liquid nitrogen is still regarded highly dangerous despite not making it under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s list of hazardous materials. People are exposed to liquid nitrogen either through inhalation or through direct contact. Inhalation exposure is viewed to be critical only if a huge amount of liquid nitrogen, reducing the oxygen levels in the air, is spilled. In order to prevent accidental exposure to liquid nitrogen, strict adherence to safety protocols, particularly in its transportation, must be observed.

When transferring liquid nitrogen probably into smaller containers, it can splash into the direction of the eyes causing injury such as cryogenic burn. Direct contact with the skin can also transpire unexpectedly.

Therefore, for both the medical practitioners and the laypersons alike: practice utmost safety when handling liquid nitrogen. If your work involves liquid nitrogen, make sure you have the complete protective suit covering your face and your body. In cases of leaks, any person not wearing any protective gear must leave the area until cleaning is completed. And if liquid nitrogen ever comes in contact with the skin, and not during a cryotherapy, the frozen skin should be soaked in water that is 41-46 degrees Celsius in temperature before immediately consulting a doctor.

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One Response to “Treating Keratosis | The Good And The Bad Side Of Cryotherapy”

  1. annuaire Says:

    I like this very much. “J’aime beaucoup” like we says in French.