Picturing Your Health In A Whole New Way: Thermal imaging is gaining the spotlight as a new way to examine our health, says Tina Clemmons
Oct 31, 2013 03:37PM
● By Tina Clemmons
Thermal imaging is gaining the spotlight as a new way to examine the state of our health using high-resolution thermal cameras and state-of-the-art thermal imaging software. Thermal cameras capture the invisible infrared light that depicts the temperatures radiating from the skin. These temperatures are converted into colors giving the ability to “map” the hotter and cooler regions, thereby providing accurate information about the body’s response to distress, disease and damage.
When something in our body isn’t right, the skin temperature that corresponds to the distressed area changes. The infrared camera captures the skin temperatures and the images are sent to trained and certified thermography reading doctors. Any difference in temperature of at least .18 degrees Fahrenheit indicates a significant finding of what and where the problem is. The reading doctors analyze the images, prepare a report and consult with the patient and patient’s doctor, as needed.
Unlike X-rays, mammograms and MRIs, which look at the body’s anatomical structure, thermography examines the physiology, or function of the parts of the body. It is a different approach that can reveal not only how our body is functioning as a system, but also what might be wrong. As Dr. Gregory Melvin, a board-certified thermal imaging reading doctor for more than 20 years, explains, “Thermography is a simple test of physiology that relies on the sympathetic nerve control of skin blood flow and the ability of the sympathetic system to respond and react to pathology anywhere in the body.”
Temperature changes may be caused by altered blood flow or reduced nerve activity. Our hypothalamus receives a signal from the nervous system that the body has a problem, and then links with the endocrine system to send hormones to the affected area. The hypothalamus also raises the skin temperature at the affected area, producing a heat signature that thermal imaging cameras can detect.
Thermal imaging, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1982 as a valuable adjunctive to mammograms for detecting cancer without subjecting the patient to discomfort or harmful radiation, can detect increased heat from increased blood flow to a suspicious area. Cancer needs oxygen to grow, meaning it needs more blood supply. Cancerous cells emit a protein to stimulate angiogenesis, or new artery growth. The increased blood flow raises the temperature around the cancer, which is detected by the thermal camera. The initial images serve as a benchmark for comparison over time. “We’re looking to see how the temperature patterns change over time to see if the growth is aggressive or not,” Melvin explains.
As thermal technology has improved over the last 40 years, thermography has successfully identified breast cancer, carpal tunnel, heart disease, neuropathy, periodontal disease, Reynaud’s, digestive issues and more. In many cases, thermography can identify conditions that other medical diagnostic procedures and technologies miss, simply because it examines how the body is functioning in response to health conditions.
In spite of thermography’s health benefits and accuracy, most insurance companies do not accept claims for thermal imaging at this time, although they will cover the cost of medical follow-up and treatment. Fortunately, the cost of imaging is low, primarily because thermal imaging providers do not have to repay the high costs of expensive equipment such as mammogram and MRI machines. And as a completely safe, non-invasive and accurate tool for picturing health, the benefits are worth it.
Tina Clemmons is a certified clinical thermographer and owner of De Novo Scan Clinical Thermography, providing thermal imaging throughout Arizona. For more information, call 480-284-2222 or visit DeNovoScan.com.