Keratosis Treatment | Beware Of Liquid Nitrogen

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. Studies reported that it is the second-most common procedure next to surgical procedures such as skin excision and it can easily be performed in the doctor’s office.

To help remove 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 therapy works unparalleled only for flat or slightly-elevated lesions.

Are you speculating how cryotherapy works? 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 blood vessel constriction, most commonly alluded to as vasoconstriction in medicine, results to a reduction in the blood flow to the site. Oxygen supply, along with other essential nutrients required for a cell’s survival, decreases due to inadequate 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 amongst the three, liquid nitrogen is the most commonly applied cryogen by physicians primarily because of its low boiling point, making it a highly efficient cryogen.

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. 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. This eventually ensues to leaking out of the cell’s contents which signal the beginning of 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.

No one should fear cryotherapy since it is a generally safe procedure as long as treatment protocols are followed rigidly. But as with other treatment modalities, one cannot ward off the presence of potential complications. To illustrate, prolonged freezing by the liquid nitrogen results to hypopigmentation or change in the skin color, specifically a lighter color.

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. Exposure to liquid nitrogen can be through inhalation or direct contact. Inhalation effects are not as grave as the direct contact effects of liquid nitrogen unless tremendous amounts of liquid nitrogen are spilled, therefore causing reduced oxygen levels. Extreme care must therefore be observed during its transportation.

Eye contact with liquid nitrogen can happen during its displacement to smaller containers. 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. If your work involves liquid nitrogen, make sure you have the entire 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.

Keratosis further readingFurther Reading:

Actinic – Seborrheic

Website Reading:

Actinic Keratosis

Seborrheic Keratosis


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