There exists several treatment modalities for keratosis but the most famous is cryotherapy, which uses extremely low temperatures and which is also called cryosurgery. With an unoccupied doctor’s office, one can easily avail of this procedure ranked as the second-most commonly utilized skin-lesion-removing procedure as researches suggest.
To help eliminate warts and keratosis, both undesirable 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 advisable only for superficial or flat lesions.
So how does cryotherapy work? Cryotherapy constricts the blood vessels at the site of the injury or in the case of keratosis, at the lesions’ site. This blood vessel constriction, most commonly referred to as vasoconstriction in medicine, results to a diminution in the blood flow to the site. Because of lesser blood supply, the cells cannot receive the nutrients that they normally get from the blood including oxygen. In the end, the cells then expire – a process called necrosis.
Examples of the chemicals 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 used cryogen by physicians primarily because of its low boiling point, making it a highly efficient cryogen.
Using any gadget that would intercept the doctor’s direct contact with liquid nitrogen such as a cotton bud, a spraygun or a probe, the physician initiates the process by directly applying the liquid nitrogen onto the client’s skin. In the span of a minute, heat from the skin transferring to the liquid nitrogen causes it to disappear instantly. Following this brief freezing period is the thawing process which endures longer. This is the time that the actual cell injury starts to occur – when the intracellular contents begin to leak out. Lastly, cell inflammation, characterized by skin redness, edema or swelling, pain and warmth, occurs as the cells’ final response to cell death.
Cryotherapy, in general, is safe when administered properly. But complications are always a part of any procedure, be them low-risk or high-risk. 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.
Although not listed as a hazardous material under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, liquid nitrogen is considered a highly dangerous chemical because any direct contact with it, especially prolonged contact, will result to rapid freezing and eventual tissue damage. People are subjected to the dangers of liquid nitrogen either through inhalation or through direct contact. Inhalation effects are not that toxic unless a significant amount of liquid nitrogen is spilled, thereby reducing oxygen levels prompting the need for respirators. Extreme care must therefore be observed during its transportation.
Liquid nitrogen can splurge into one’s eyes especially when transferring it to another storage device. Or there can be accidental direct contact with the skin.
Therefore, for both the medical practitioners and the laypersons alike: practice utmost safety when handling liquid nitrogen. The goggles, face shields, masks, gloves, aprons and other encapsulating suits should always be your first line of defense from liquid nitrogen. In cases of leaks, any person not wearing any protective gear must leave the area until cleaning is completed. And remember to soak the skin in tepid water before consulting a doctor when direct exposure to liquid nitrogen occurs.