Cryotherapy (Liquid Nitrogen)
Liquid nitrogen is used by dermatologists for a variety of purposes. Most commonly, it is used to treat warts, pre-cancerous growths, "age warts", skin tags and molluscum contagiosum. Liquid nitrogen treatments are safe when done properly.
What is Liquid Nitrogen and How Does it Work?
Nitrogen is a gas that makes up most of the air we breathe. When it is made very cold (-196 °C) it becomes a liquid. When this liquid is applied to warts (or other skin growths), it causes a separation in the skin. The top layer peels off within 1-3 weeks and takes all or part of the original growth with it.
What are the Side Effects of Liquid Nitrogen Treatments?
- Treatments with liquid nitrogen are uncomfortable for a brief period of time. Some people report tenderness for up to a week or longer when plantar warts are treated.
- Liquid nitrogen treatments frequently cause blistering or scabbing which is normal.
- Sometimes, liquid nitrogen leaves the skin a whitish colour after the skin growth that has been treated "falls off" and heals. Sometimes the skin returns to normal but occasionally it remains lighter than the surrounding skin.
- In darker-skinned individuals, liquid nitrogen treatments can frequently cause a darkening of the skin. This is usually temporary but can be very slow to resolve
- Rarely, liquid nitrogen treatments can cause a scar. This is unusual
How Should I Take Care of the Sites where I have been Treated with Liquid Nitrogen?
- If blisters develop they can be popped with a sterile needle if desired.
- Apply Vaseline ointment twice per day to any areas treated on the face.
- Protect the skin from the sun while it is healing (and always) by wearing sun-protective clothing or a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher