What is cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a treatment which uses a chemical called liquid nitrogen to destroy a number of skin lesions, including viral warts, seborrhoeic warts and solar keratoses. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold and destroys the lesion.
How is it carried out?
The liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the lesion until the lesion and a small rim around it turns white. For most lesions a 5-10 second freeze will be enough. Sometimes the treatment may need to be repeated or carried out for longer.
Looking after the treated area
Treatment is likely to produce a reaction similar to a burn, with redness, leaking fluid or crusting lasting a few days. You do not need to cover the treated area with a dressing and you do not need to keep it dry. Simply treat it gently, as it may be slightly sore. If you do feel that you need to take a painkiller you can take paracetamol or other pain relieving tablets.
After the treatment a blister (sometimes called a ‘blood blister’) may develop. If this happens, don’t worry. Protect the blister with a clean, dry dressing. If a large blister forms, please seek advice from your GP or Practice Nurse. A simple antiseptic cream may be used if the blister bursts. The blisters will form scabs that will fall off after about 2-3 weeks.
Sometimes swelling may develop in the surrounding skin, particularly if you have an area around your eyes treated. If this happens, you may want to take an anti-inflammatory painkiller such as ibuprofen. The doctor may sometimes prescribe a steroid ointment, to be applied to the treatment site to reduce swelling.
The healing process may take up to 6 weeks, but some areas that are treated may take longer.
Risks and side effects
Cryotherapy is a safe and reliable treatment and the appearance of the skin afterwards is usually very good. However, once the area has healed you may be left with a pale mark or a flat white scar. Sometimes lesions redevelop after treatment with cryotherapy. If this happens, please speak to your GP, as they may be able to recommend further cryotherapy or alternative treatments.