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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.
Most warts require 1 to 4 treatments, with 1 to 3 weeks between each treatment.
Cryotherapy can also be done at home using an over-the-counter product such as Compound W Freeze Off. These home cryotherapy kits use a mixture of dimethyl ether and propane rather than liquid nitrogen. This mixture is used to soak a foam applicator that is then applied to the wart. This product may be safe for warts on the hands or feet but not for genital warts. Follow all instructions carefully to avoid serious burns and permanent scarring.
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.
Multiple treatments may be needed to get rid of the wart.
Cryotherapy is usually used if salicylic acid treatment has not eliminated a wart or if quick treatment is desired.
Cryotherapy can destroy warts. It gets rid of warts about half of the time but two or more treatments may be needed.footnote 1
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.
There is a small chance of infection associated with cryotherapy. Some signs of infection include:
If you can tolerate moderate, short-term pain, cryotherapy may be a reasonable treatment option for you.
CitationsHabif TP, et al. (2011). Viral infections. In Skin Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd ed., pp. 210–245. Edinburgh: Saunders.
Current as of: April 1, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Patrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family Medicine & Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
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