Cryotherapy is commonly used in dermatology to treat skin lesions. Liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the skin to create a cold burn on the skin. This stings as it is applied. It can develop a blister as it is healing and it heals within a few weeks. It will leave a scar. It is usually a very well tolerated procedure. Dr DeGiovanni is usually able to perform cryotherapy on the same day as your initial consultation if you’re insurance company has authorised treatment.
How does cryotherapy work?
Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to produce a controlled cold burn on the skin. Freezing has been used as a method of treatment for skin problems for many years. It is particularly effective for treating skin lesions that involve the surface layers of the skin (the epidermis). Damage to this layer allows the skin cells underneath (the basal layer) to regenerate and produce normal healthy skin.
What type of skin problems are treated with cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is commonly used to treat sun-damaged skin lesions (solar keratosis), warty growths of the skin (seborrhoeic warts), viral warts (verrucae) and early forms of skin cancer (intra-epidermal carcinoma or Bowen’s disease)
What will I expect during treatment?
The treatment will produce soreness and a stinging sensation. It may be painful. This will depend on the site of the skin problem and the length of the freeze considered necessary.
What should I expect after treatment?
It is normal to experience some discomfort following cryotherapy. Immediately after treatment, marked redness and swelling may develop. A scab or crust may then form, which will eventually fall away leaving normal skin underneath. This process may take several days and you may want to cover the area with a plaster. It is important to keep the area clean during this healing phase. Vaseline can be used if you decide to leave it uncovered. Occasionally, you may prescribe Fucibet or Fucidin H cream to settle down the inflammation and this should be used twice a day for 5-7 days.
What problems may occur?
The following may complicate the treatment:
Sometimes freezing on a sensitive skin will produce a clear water or blood blister. If this occurs simply puncture the roof of the blister with a clean needle (preferably sterilized by placing in boiling water) and let any fluid out. Repeat this until it no longer refills. Do not remove the roof of the blister as it creates a protective barrier for the healing skin underneath.
Undue discomfort or pain should respond to paracetamol.
Increasing pain and redness occurring a few days after treatment may indicate infection. If this occurs you may need to contact the outpatient nurses at the Nuffield or contact your GP for an antibiotic cream or tablets.
All damage to the skin creates a scar. In many cases the scar following cryotherapy fades well and is frequently barely visible. The scar can be covered with make–up once it has healed. Scars following cryotherapy tend to be white in colour and occasionally they are dipped in the skin. Rarely, a raised scar (called a keloid or hypertrophic scar) may form. Treatment may also disturb the colouration of the skin layers resulting in a scar that is either lighter (hypopigmented) or darker (hyperpigmented) than the natural tone of your skin. The risk of discolouration is higher in darker in skin tones.