Cryotherapy is the use of low temperatures to remove abnormal cells from the surface of the skin. Developed in the mid-1800s, the methods which are now widely used by doctors were developed in the 1960s and then perfected in the 1980s. The procedure is most commonly used by dermatologists who specialize in dealing with skin disorders.
Most commonly used to remove unwanted warts or benign lesions, cryotherapy, or cryosurgery as it is sometimes known, can also be used to remove cancerous cells and growths from the skin. There are advantages to using cryotherapy to treat such conditions, as it can target the affected area without damaging the rest of the skin.
When Should Cryotherapy Be Used?
Although cancerous lesions can be removed using cryotherapy, it is not recommended to use the process for the removal of malignant melanoma, typically the deadliest form of skin cancer. Sometimes, cryotherapy is not an appropriate choice of treatment because of the spots where the warts or lesions are located; sensitive areas of skin on the face should particularly be avoided.
Cryotherapy can be a great alternative to surgery for older people who need abnormal cells removed, especially if they may be too ill to undergo surgery. There is a small risk of scarring after the use of cryotherapy, which is another good reason to avoid using it on facial lesions.
What Does Cryotherapy Involve?
How cryotherapy is used depends on what kind of treatment is needed, and what kind of cells are being removed. The removal of warts is a fairly straightforward procedure; the doctor simply inserts a cotton swab into a container of liquid nitrogen or another super cold material and then places it directly onto the wart that is being removed. Liquid nitrogen is the most commonly used cryogen, and is also the coldest one available — stored at a chilly -320 degrees Fahrenheit!
For larger lesions, doctors may sometimes spray the cryogen onto the affected area of skin, to allow a longer freezing period to take place; alternatively, they may use a probe filled with the cryogen to ensure the skin is cooled sufficiently for the treatment to be successful without the cryogen itself actually touching the skin.
How Does Cryotherapy Work?
The very low temperatures involved in cryotherapy work by freezing the abnormal cells quickly before allowing the area affected to slow down slowly. This makes sure that the targeted cells are killed without damaging any other area of the body.
Ensuring that the warts or lesions are brought to a sufficiently low temperature is very important for a successful cryotherapy treatment. In some cases, doctors may actually insert a needle attached to a medical thermometer into the lesion to check that the area is cold enough for the treatment to work.
Cryotherapy can be carried out relatively quickly. Very little preparation is needed except to ensure that the area being treated is sterile. The treatment can be a little painful, but it will only last a few seconds.
Most people will experience only mild side effects after cryotherapy; a little swelling or redness is usual and the wound left behind after the procedure should be kept covered until it has healed. The time it takes to heal depends on the size of the affected area; warts may be completely gone in just a few days, whereas larger areas may take a few weeks to heal completely.
Cryotherapy is a simple and effective way to remove warts, lesions and even cancerous growths. The procedure itself, and the after effects, are much less invasive than other options for removing abnormal cells, such as surgery. The treatment can be carried out at your local clinic or family doctor’s office, with no need to visit a hospital, cutting down on costs if you have to pay for the procedure.
There are very few risks to cryotherapy, and if you can tolerate a little pain and a few days of swelling and redness, then it is the ideal method for removing unsightly warts or moles, or even potentially dangerous cancerous lesions.