There exists several treatment modalities for keratosis but the most notable is cryotherapy, which makes use of extremely low temperatures and which is also called cryosurgery. With an available doctor’s office, one can easily avail of this procedure ranked as the second-most commonly administered skin-lesion-removing procedure as researches suggest.
To help remove warts and keratosis, both bothersome types of skin lesions, cryotherapy uses extreme cold to render these lesions frozen, dried and readily peeled off from the skin. But this regimen works beyond compare only for flat or slightly-elevated lesions.
So how does cryotherapy work? At the site of the injury, such as where the skin lesions can be found, cryotherapy compresses the blood vessels, including the arteries and the veins. This vasoconstriction, medical term for constriction of the blood vessels, reduces the blood flow into the site. Oxygen supply, along with other important nutrients needed for a cell’s survival, decreases due to insufficient blood supply. Eventually, the adverse effect is cell death or necrosis.
There are a few types of cryogens, substances used to obtain very low temperatures, namely, liquid nitrogen, carbon dioxide snow and DMEP or dimethyl ether and propane. But due to its greater success in removing skin lesions, mainly because of its low boiling point, most physicians prefer to use liquid nitrogen in performin cryotherapy.
At the beginning of the treatment, the physician directly applies the liquid nitrogen onto the skin using a cotton-tipped applicator, a cryospray or a cryoprobe. In the span of a minute, heat from the skin transferring to the liquid nitrogen makes it disappear instantly. Thawing of the skin lesions then ensues after 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. Cell inflammation, the last step of the process, finally sets in making the skin reddish, swell, painful and warm.
Cryotherapy, in general, is safe when administered properly. But like many other procedures, complications can and will arise. Such is the outcome of prolonged freezing by the liquid nitrogen which shows as a whiter skin color of the area treated than the surrounding skin, commonly referred to as hypopigmentation.
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. There are two types of exposure to liquid nitrogen: inhalation and direct contact. Inhalation exposure is considered to be critical only if a immense amount of liquid nitrogen, reducing the oxygen levels in the air, is spilled. In order to avoid accidental exposure to liquid nitrogen, strict adherence to safety protocols, particularly in its transportation, must be observed.
Eye contact with liquid nitrogen can happen during its displacement to smaller containers. Direct contact with the skin can also take place unexpectedly.
In conclusion, be it health professionals or the laypeople, they must deal with liquid nitrogen safely. Always wear goggles, face shields or masks, gloves, aprons or other encapsulating suits when handling any objects with liquid nitrogen or liquid nitrogen itself. When leaks are inevitable, remove anyone unprotected from possible exposure. In cases of direct contact, immerse the skin in water that has a temperature of 41-46 degrees Celsius then consult a doctor.