Thermography is a term used to describe an application of thermal imaging. Scientists and engineers use thermal imaging to determine the source of heat transfer. For example, a thermal image of a house’s exterior can detect where heat is being lost to the outside atmosphere through windows and cracks. The same type of technology can be used to view heat transfer at or near the surface of the human body.
This is a relatively new branch of applied science as it applies to preventive and early detection medicine. Thermal imaging can be used to detect possible problems in the skin and the underlying tissues. Thermography is already being used to identify cancerous growths and can provide information for making a definitive diagnosis of skin cancer and breast cancer.
How Thermal Imaging Works
Thermal means heat, so the images one sees on a scope that shows heat loss is a measurement of the intensity and exact wavelengths of infrared light. This doesn’t mean that the amount of heat transfer from one location to another is clearly defined, however. What is being observed is called the emissivity, or in other words, the ability for a certain material to emit radiation in the infrared range.
We shouldn’t look directly at the sun. It’s dangerous to our retinas. However, even if we could safely look at the sun, we wouldn’t be seeing all of the light energy the sun produces in the direction of our eyes. What we are seeing is the amount of energy that can escape to space. That’s why the sun has what is known as a photosphere.
Thermography works the same way. We know how much heat energy should be escaping from the surface of the body. If the thermal imaging shows something different, we then know that additional heat is being produced beneath the skin, or perhaps tissue is emitting less energy than it should. It tells us that something may be wrong at or beneath the skin surface.
The most common application of thermal imaging is to produce thermal graphs of a region of the skin surface. We will see different colors ranging from dark blue to green, yellow, and red. If something, say a small tumor, is beginning to form in or beneath the skin, it will affect the emissivity because the tissue growth absorbs and conducts heat differently from the surrounding tissue.
This means some very exciting possibilities for the detection of certain malignancies. It can serve as a sort of second opinion for doctors who may not be able to detect an abnormal growth through other imaging techniques.
Thermography is already being used to detect certain skin abnormalities such as loss of collagen, the early development of non-malignant growths, and even breast cancer. The idea is to gather as much information as possible in the form of thermal image graphs performed on a huge number of individuals. This makes it easy to detect something that stands out from the norm.
The real benefit of thermography is the ability for our medical professional at Plateroti Dermatology to detect something abnormal at a very early stage. If you have heard about thermography already and want further information, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our office in Templeton!