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Cryotherapy for Warts

Treatment Overview

Cryotherapy involves freezing a wart using a very cold substance (usually liquid nitrogen). Cryotherapy is a standard treatment for warts and can be done in a doctor's office. The liquid nitrogen application usually takes less than a minute.

  • Your doctor may trim the wart with a small knife before applying liquid nitrogen.
  • Cryotherapy can be uncomfortable. A numbing local anesthetic is usually not needed but may be used in some cases.
  • Your doctor applies the liquid nitrogen to the wart using a probe or a cotton swab. Liquid nitrogen can also be sprayed directly on the wart.

Most warts require 1 to 4 treatments, with 1 to 3 weeks between each treatment.

There are over-the-counter products to freeze warts. These products are less powerful than liquid nitrogen. They may work for some warts, but it may work better to have your doctor freeze the warts.

What To Expect

Pain from cryotherapy can last up to 3 days. Healing is generally quick (7 to 14 days) with little or no scarring.

Within hours after treatment, a blister may form.

  • If the blister breaks, clean the area to prevent the spread of the wart virus. Avoid contact with the fluid, which may contain the wart virus.
  • The blister will dry up over the next few days, and the wart may fall off.

Multiple treatments may be needed to get rid of the wart.

Why It Is Done

Cryotherapy is usually used if salicylic acid treatment has not eliminated a wart or if quick treatment is desired.

How Well It Works

Cryotherapy usually gets rid of warts. Two or more treatments may be needed.

Risks

If done carefully, cryotherapy poses little risk of scarring.

If a wart is thick and requires extensive or repeated freezing, nerves around the wart can be damaged, scarring may occur, and the skin may take a long time to recover.

Cryotherapy can cause redness, blisters, pain, or tenderness. Healing may take a week or longer. Cryotherapy can also cause skin color changes where you had the treatment. This may be more noticeable if you have darker skin.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: March 3, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine

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