What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy, derived from the Greek words ‘cryo’ meaning cold and ‘therapy’ meaning cure, involves the application of freezing temperatures to treat abnormal tissue. When used for wart removal, it typically involves liquid nitrogen, which has a temperature of approximately -196°C (-320°F). This intense cold can destroy unwanted tissue quickly and effectively.

How does Cryotherapy work?

Cryotherapy works by applying liquid nitrogen to the wart, which freezes the water within the cells, causing ice crystals to form. These crystals can rupture the cell membranes, leading to cell death. The freezing process also helps to destroy the blood vessels supplying the wart, cutting off its nutrient supply. Furthermore, the cold can trigger an immune response, prompting your body to attack the virus that caused the wart.

What is Cryotherapy best suited for?

Cryotherapy is suitable for a variety of skin lesions, including:

  • Common warts, typically found on hands and feet
  • Plantar warts, which are located on the soles of the feet
  • Plane warts
  • Some other benign skin lesions

It’s a particularly good option for warts that have not responded to other treatments like topical salicylic acid or other topical treatments.

What to expect during treatment?

During a cryotherapy session for wart removal, doctor will apply liquid nitrogen to the wart using a spray device. The application is brief, usually only a few seconds. You may feel a burning or stinging sensation during the treatment, which should subside once the freezing stops.

What are the treatment areas?

Cryotherapy can be used on most parts of the body, including:

  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Torso
  • Face (only under special circumstances with special care)

Is the treatment painful?

Not quite, cryotherapy is only slightly painful but usually tolerable, only when the liquid nitrogen is applied and as the area thaws afterward, which last for few seconds only. The pain is typically described as a burning or stinging sensation.

How many sessions are needed to see results?

The number of cryotherapy sessions needed can vary depending on the size and depth of the wart. Some warts may clear after a single treatment, while others, especially larger or stubborn warts, may require repeat sessions. These sessions are usually spaced several weeks apart to allow the skin to heal.

How soon can I see results from?

Results can be seen as soon as the treated area heals, which usually takes one to three weeks. After the procedure, the frozen skin will thaw and may swell, blister, and eventually might form a scab. The scab will fall off, taking the wart with it.

What to avoid after the treatment?

Post-cryotherapy, you should avoid:

  • Irritating or picking at the treatment area, to prevent scarring.
  • Soaking the area.
  • Strenuous activity that may disrupt the treatment area until it’s fully healed.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects of cryotherapy are generally mild and temporary. They may include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blistering
  • Pain or soreness at the treatment site
  • Scarring, which is rare and typically occurs if the freezing was too deep or prolonged

A temporary change in skin color may occur at the site of the wart, with the skin appearing lighter or darker. Normal skin color usually returns after several months.

Cryotherapy is a time-tested, effective treatment for warts and other skin lesions, with a straightforward procedure and a relatively simple aftercare. Always seek treatment from a qualified doctor to ensure safety and effectiveness, and minimise side effects.

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