Cryotherapy Wart Removal
Warts are nothing if not stubborn. Those that refuse to budge after being covered by over-the-counter medicines or that do not go away without treatment may need to be removed by a doctor. One of the most common surgical procedures is cryotherapy for warts, which kills the wart by freezing it.
Cryotherapy aims to destroy the wart and the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes it. Before the procedure commences the doctor will clean the wart and skin around it. Then a cryogen (freezing agent) such as liquid nitrogen will be applied. It may sting a little and on some occasions, a local anesthetic is applied as the patient might experience some pain. Within a few minutes the wart turns white, a sign that some of the cells are dying. A blister forms and a bandage may be applied to protect the area. The treatment usually lasts for 15-20 minutes and the blister will usually flatten after a couple of days to be replaced by the growth of new skin cells. The highest cure rates have been observed when treatment occurs every two to three weeks (Bourke JF, Berth-Jones J, Hutchinson PE. Cryotherapy of common viral warts at intervals of 1, 2, and 3 weeks. Br J Dermatol 1995; 132: 433-6).
Warts cryotherapy success rates depend on the nature, number, and location of warts, and the treatment regime given. It can be used on all kinds of warts such as those on the face, feet, hands, and genital area. One study has shown that the best results for common warts not located on the palms or soles are obtained by a single freeze (Brodrell RT, Johnson SM. Warts: diagnosis and management: an evidence-based approach. New York: Martin Dunitz, 2003). And for common warts that appear on the face, one study recommends the surgical procedure as a second-line therapy (Sterling JC, Handfield-Jones S, Hudson PM. Guidelines for the Management of cutaneous warts. Br J Dermatol 2001; 144:4-11).
How Cryosurgery Works
Cryosurgery is not an invasive procedure and it works because of the destructive power of the cold temperatures on the body’s cells. Water ice crystals form inside cells and as they develop they push through the cell walls resulting in cell death. The super-chilled liquid can be applied by a swab, fine spray, or through a tube.
As with all surgical procedures, there is some risk attached. For wart cryotherapy these include the possibility of some pain during and after treatment, there may be some scarring and an increased risk of infection. Blood blisters may also form if the freezing of skin cells causes localized blood vessels that feed the wart to rupture. Wart cryotherapy usually requires more than one treatment to completely remove a wart.
At Home Cryotherapy for Warts
There are now over the counter cryotherapy kits available for use. While these are not as strong as what you would experience in a doctor’s office, they are quite useful for treating common warts at a relatively low cost. Plantar wart cryotherapy and genital wart cryotherapy are best left to a doctor to perform.