Cryotherapy, which is also known as cryosurgery, is a quick and effective treatment that can be used to treat a variety of benign skin lesions including viral warts, seborrhoeic keratoses and solar lentigos.

It can also be an effective way of treating sun damage lesions including actinic keratoses, Bowen’s disease and superficial basal cell carcinomas.

How does cryotherapy work?

The concept of cryotherapy is a simple one. Very cold liquid nitrogen is applied to the skin lesion, usually by spraying and sometimes with a cotton bud, to destroy the tissue. Most lesions can be treated with two freeze-thaw cycles administered on a single occasion but warts often require repeated treatments, as well as topical therapy between cryotherapy treatments.

What happens during a cryotherapy treatment?

No preparation is needed before cryotherapy and it does not require a local anaesthetic. The affected area is sprayed with the liquid nitrogen for two periods of approximately ten seconds, with a break between sprays for just long enough to allow the skin to thaw after freezing. This stings temporarily and the treated area will turn white before returning to normal colour.

What should I expect after cryotherapy?

When performed by a qualified and experienced dermatologist, cryotherapy is extremely safe. The treated area will become inflamed and can form a blister and there may be some bleeding afterwards, but this usually resolves quickly. It is recommended to keep the area dry for 24 hours after treatment to reduce the risk of developing an infection.

Depending on the site that has been treated, a simple dressing may be advisable to prevent sticking to clothing. The pigment cells in the skin called melanocytes are damaged by cryotherapy meaning that it usually leaves a pale or white mark in the treated area.

Can children have cryotherapy?

It is possible to treat older children with cryotherapy but younger children often find it difficult to tolerate because of the discomfort. There is no hard and fast rule about how old a child should be to have cryotherapy and Dr Williams will be happy to discuss with you and your child whether it would be the right treatment option.

Call 01483 555 907 to arrange a consultation with Dr Williams.

Where can I find out more?

Further information is available from:

British Association of Dermatologists: Cryotherapy Information

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