How does cryotherapy work?
Cryotherapy or colloquially known as ‘cold therapy’ is a procedure that uses liquid nitrogen to deliver freezing cold temperature locally to destroy and remove abnormal skin lesion.
- Quick procedure
- Low cost
- Effective with good cosmetic outcome
What is cryotherapy suitable for?
It is suitable and effective in
- Viral wart removal
- Molluscum contagiosum
- Skin tag removal
- Sebaceous hyperplasia
- Seborrheic keratosis (ageing spot)
- Pigmentary conditions such as solar lentigine (sun spots)
- Acne cyst
- Prurigo nodule (skin nodules/lumps)
- Precancerous skin conditions such as cutaneous horn, actinic keratosis
What results can I expect?
The cryotherapy treated area will appear like a small burn. You may experience mild redness, stinging or discomfort. The redness will gradually subside over a week. If the treated area is slightly weepy, your doctor may cover the area with a dressing, and advised you to apply antibiotic ointment or Vaseline over the area to encourage healing. Overtime, the abnormal skin lesion may reduce in size or potentially fall off itself.
How many sessions do I need?
Frequency of cryotherapy sessions depends on the size of the lesion, individual response to cryotherapy treatment. Your doctor usually will follow you up 2 to 4 weeks after your cryotherapy session to review the effect on the skin lesion. If required, your doctor may advise you for further cryotherapy session.
No preparation required. No fasting required. Your doctor will run through with you the cryotherapy procedure, what to expect and what are the side effects before the cryotherapy session.
As cryotherapy involves delivering subzero temperature to the skin surface, one may experience pain or discomfort. Majority of patients are able to tolerate the procedure without anaesthesia. However, if you have lower pain threshold, you can let your doctor know as local anaesthesia can be offered to patients before cryotherapy procedure.
The complication from cryotherapy therapy is low. Commonly, patients can experience pain, redness, swelling, blistering, crust formation, and pigmentatory changes (skin tone lighter/darker) after procedure. There can be a small risk of bacterial infection if the treated skin area is slightly weepy.
The idea of targeting extremely cold temperature to a particular tissue/skin lesion is to induce cell death, leading to final destruction of a skin lesion. At very low temperature, cell destruction also occurs as there is significant reduction/cessation of blood flow through the skin, leading to skin cells injury and destruction.
You can return to your normal daily routine immediately after cryotherapy. If the treatment skin area is slightly red and weepy, ensure the area is clean and dry, avoid long hours of bath soaking, swimming, or excessive sweating to reduce infection risk.
Yes, you can shower after cryotherapy treatment. The treated skin area can be showered with gentle soap and water, avoid scrubbing. You can apply antibiotic cream or vaseline to the treated area if it is slightly raw and red.
Healing starts within a week after liquid nitrogen freezing. On average, healing time can take up to 2-4 weeks. If the lesions are over the lower limbs, complete recovery can take as long as 3 months. Your general daily routine should not be affected.
Cryotherapy treatment is safe. Areas to avoid cryotherapy treatment, or should be done with caution include free margin areas such as the eyelids, nostrils, lip, tendon/muscle region. Your doctor should discuss with you on the suitability of cryotherapy procedure, and the risks and the expectation outcome before the procedure.
- Cryotherapy should be used in caution or avoided in very young patients- as it can be very painful.
- Patients with darker skin tone should be counselled, as there is a higher risk of post procedural hypopigmentation, leading to poorer aesthetic outcome after cryotherapy session.
- Rarely, patients with cold-related diseases such as Raynaud’s disease, cold intolerance, cryoglobulineamia, cold urticarial are not suitable for cryotherapy.
You are encouraged to inform your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions.
In some fortunate case, you can see results of the abnormal skin lesion falling off after 5 to 7 days of receiving cryotherapy. Sometimes you may require repeated sessions of cryotherapy to completely remove the abnormal skin lesion. Your doctor will guide you during the cryotherapy treatment follow up on whether further sessions are required.
If the cryotherapy treatment has cleared off the abnormal skin lesion, the effect should last. However certain benign skin conditions may recur due to individual immune system, sun exposure, viral re-infection, and response to the treatment. You are usually advised for 6 months or annual follow up with your doctor to review the skin condition and revisit the need of further cryotherapy ‘touch-up’ treatment.