The use of cryogens or cryotherapy, curettage, laser therapy, electrocautery or surgical excision all aid in treating keratoses – the first being the most popular. With an available doctor’s office, one can easily avail of this procedure ranked as the second-most commonly implemented skin-lesion-removing procedure as researches suggest.
To help eliminate warts and keratoses, both annoying types of skin lesions, cryotherapy utilizes extreme cold to render these lesions frozen, dried and readily peeled off from the skin. But this treatment works unparalleled only for flat or slightly-raised lesions.
So how does cryotherapy work? Cryotherapy constricts the blood vessels at the site of the injury or in the case of keratoses, at the lesions’ site. This vasoconstriction, medical term for constriction of the blood vessels, reduces the blood flow into the site. Oxygen supply, along with other essential nutrients required for a cell’s survival, decreases due to inadequate blood supply. Eventually, the detrimental 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 efficiency in removing skin lesions, mainly because of its low boiling point, most physicians prefer to use liquid nitrogen in implementing 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 causes it to disappear instantly. Following this brief freezing period is the thawing process which lasts longer. Then when the cell’s contents leak out into its surroundings called the interstitial space, rest assured the cryotherapy has begun the actual cell injury. To conclude the process, the client’s skin will show signs of inflammation – redness, swelling, pain and warmth – signaling the cells’ decompensation.
Cryotherapy, in general, is safe when administered properly. But like many other procedures, complications can and will arise. Such is the aftermath 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.
Even though the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act does not regard liquid nitrogen hazardous, it still poses deleterious effects on humans who come in direct contact with it for this will bring about rapid freezing of the tissues or even tissue death. Exposure to liquid nitrogen can be through inhalation or 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.
Eye contact with liquid nitrogen can occur during its transfer to smaller containers. Direct contact with the skin can also transpire unexpectedly.
Everyone must therefore conform to safety protocols when dealing with liquid nitrogen. 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 do occur, remove anyone unprotected from possible exposure. 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.