Wart Cryotherapy – Removal By Freezing With Liquid Nitrogen
Cryotherapy Treatment for Removal of Warts
A common wart removal method is the use of liquid nitrogen in a procedure called cryotherapy.
What is Cryotherapy in Wart Removal?
Warts are ugly and can cause short term stress, but they are nothing that you should worry about in the long term. That is unless the pesky unwanted growths become stubborn. Those that refuse to budge after being covered and treated by over-the-counter medicines and natural home remedies or that do not go away without treatment may need to be removed by a doctor.
One of the most common surgical procedures for warts treatment is cryotherapy, a method which kills the wart by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. This is an option you can take if you want your warts to be treated in the quickest way. However, this may not be a good option for patients who are sensitive to pain like elderly people and children.
Cryotherapy wart treatment aims to destroy the wart and the human papillomavirus (HPV) that caused the wart in the first place. Before the procedure commences, the doctor will clean the wart and skin around it. The doctor may even cut the skin before placing the liquid nitrogen on the wart. Then a cryogen (freezing agent) such as liquid nitrogen will be applied on the trimmed wart.
During the cryotherapy procedure, it may sting a little bit, and on some occasions, a local anesthetic is applied as the patient might experience some pain depending on how many warts will be treated. Within a few minutes, the wart turns white, which is a sign that some of the cells are dying. A blister then forms, and a bandage may be placed to protect the area treated. The treatment usually lasts about 15-20 minutes and the blister will usually flatten after a couple of days which will then 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). In most cases, cryotherapy treatment for warts takes about 1 to sessions with 1 to 3 weeks intervals.
Cryotherapy Treatment Advantages and Success Rates
The cryotherapy treatment for warts success rates depends on the nature, number, and location of warts, and the treatment 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 second-line therapy (Sterling JC, Handfield-Jones S, Hudson PM. Guidelines for the Management of cutaneous warts. Br J Dermatol 2001; 144:4-11).
Even with the long history and evolution of cryotherapy, there is still a very limited number of research data regarding the effectivity of cryotherapy in treating warts. On one study in 2002, the effectivity of cryotherapy was compared with the use of duct tape in removing warts. Twenty-two out of the 51 subjects that took part in the study used duct tape wart removal against the fifteen subjects who used cryotherapy as their wart removal treatment saw warts completely removed in the first month since the treatment was provided (Dean R. Focht III; Carole Spicer; Mary P. Fairchock. The Efficacy of Duct Tape vs Cryotherapy in the Treatment of Verruca Vulgaris (the Common Wart). Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, Oct 2002; 156: 971-974).
How Does Cryotherapy Work?
Cryotherapy for wart treatment is started by cleaning the wart and cutting your wart with a sharp scalpel or a small knife. The liquid nitrogen is applied to the wart. Other than the liquid nitrogen, liquefied carbon dioxide may be used in replacement of liquid nitrogen. As mentioned earlier, depending on how many warts will be treated or how big the area is that will be treated, the doctor may recommend that a local anesthetic will be used so the patient does not feel pain, and this is especially recommended to pain-sensitive patients.
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 the 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.
After the treatment, pain may still be felt for about three days or more. Two weeks after the procedure, warts should already have recovered fully. Minimal scarring on the treated area may also be evident, but not in all cases. There is also a possibility that blisters will develop in the treated area. If you accidentally break the blister, make sure to wipe it off with antiseptic cleaning wipes as this will help lower the chances of the virus being scattered. Blistering and the wart normally disappear after a few days. If it doesn’t disappear, and the blisters are still there, and pain is still felt from warts, then have another appointment with the doctor.
Risks in Cryotherapy Treatment
As with all surgical procedures, there are some risks attached to it. For wart cryotherapy, this includes the possibility of some pain during and after the treatment, there may be some scarring and an increased risk of infection of the wound by bacteria. Symptoms like fever, increase in swelling of the wound and yellow discharge are a clear indication that the wound has been infected with bacteria. These may be treated with antibiotics that can be taken orally. Blood blisters may also form if the freezing of skin cells causes blood vessels that feed the wart to rupture. Wart cryotherapy usually requires more than one treatment to completely remove a wart.
Other than scarring and other mentioned possible risks, one other is that pigmentation being altered after the procedure is possible. Healing of the wound may be slow, but this may not be the case for all. A very rare case and the worst that could happen is for your nerves to be damaged resulting in paralysis on the area affected.
Cryotherapy Wart Treatment at Home
There are now over the counter cryotherapy kits available for use. However, the use of liquid nitrogen to treat warts can only be done with the assistance of a doctor. 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, making the wart neutralize faster than not applying any form of treatment. Plantar wart cryotherapy and genital wart cryotherapy are best left to a doctor to perform.
Medications you can purchase over the counter are Freeze Away Easy Wart Remover and Compound W Freeze Off. These treatments are a combination of propane and dimethyl ether. Normally, a foam or swab comes with the mixture and then the swab is dipped in the solution and is placed on the wart, holding it for a few seconds. It needs to be done once or twice a day. Each product may have different instructions on how to use it, so please read the instructions carefully before using the product.
For other methods of removal, visit https://warts.org/wart-removal where we cover all forms of growth removal.
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