Keratosis Treatment & Liquid Nitrogen



Cryotherapy, also commonly known as cryosurgery, is one of the several treatment options for keratosis – along with curettage, laser therapy, electrocautery or even a surgical procedure. With a visit doctor’s office, you can quickly undergo this procedure ranked as the second-most commonly administered keratosis removal procedure as researches suggest.

Various annoying skin lesions such as warts, actinic keratosis or seborrheic keratosis are frozen off from the body through the utilization of very low temperatures – the process named as cryotherapy. Due to ineffective trials in removing deeper and thicker lesions, this treatment is advisable only for superficial or flat 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. Because of lesser blood supply, the cells cannot obtain the nutrients that they normally acquire from the blood including oxygen. Eventually, the adverse effect is cell death or necrosis.

Liquid nitrogen, carbon dioxide snow and DMEP or dimethyl ether and propane, are some of the chemicals utilized to generate extremely cold temperatures and which are called cryogens.   But amongst the three, liquid nitrogen is the most commonly exercised cryogen by physicians to treat keratosis primarily because of its low boiling point, making it a highly efficient cryogen.

The first phase of the treatment is when liquid nitrogen is directly placed on the client’s skin using a cotton-tipped applicator, a spraygun or a probe. In the span of a minute, heat from the skin transferring to the liquid nitrogen causes it to disappear instantly. After this brief period of freezing comes the thawing of the lesions. This eventually ensues to leaking out of the cell’s contents which mark the beginning of the definite cell injury. Cell inflammation, the last step of the process, finally sets in making the skin reddish, swell, painful and warm.

There are generally minimal adverse effects when the physician administers the treatment according to the guidelines. But like many other procedures, complications can and will arise. To illustrate, prolonged freezing by the liquid nitrogen results to hypopigmentation or change in the skin color, specifically a lighter color.

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

Liquid nitrogen can spatter into one’s eyes especially when transferring it to another container. 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 to treat keratosis on the skin. 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. And if liquid nitrogen ever comes in contact with the skin, and not during a cryotherapy treatment, 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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