In cryotherapy treatment, the surface skin lesions get frozen. Usually, these lesions include actinic keratoses, seborrheic keratoses, superficial non-melanoma skin cancers and viral warts. Dermatologists may freeze small skin cancers like superficial basal cell and in situ squamous cell carcinoma; however, follow-up appointments are needed for ensuring that cancer has been completely eliminated.
Freezing is one of the most suitable methods for removing different types of surface skin lesion. This treatment method is safe and reliable.
Cryotherapy usually stings and may be painful at the time of application and post-procedure.
Cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen involves using a cryospray or cotton-tipped applicator. The nitrogen is applied to the skin lesion for a couple of seconds or longer (up to 30 sec), depending on the type of lesion as well as diameter and depth of freeze. The treatment may be repeated a few times and is often called “double freeze-thaw.”
Immediate swelling and redness that occurs after freezing may be reduced by applying a topical steroid on the affected spot. In order to reduce inflammation and discomfort, aspirin orally should be used.
The area treated with liquid nitrogen may blister for a few hours. This depends on the depth and duration of the freeze. A blister may contain a clear fluid or sometimes this fluid can be red or purple due to bleeding; however, this is harmless. If treatment was done near the eye area, this may cause a puffy eyelid, especially in the morning, but swelling disappears after a few days, Eventually, scab forms and the blister dries up.
In most cases, special attention is not needed during the healing phase. The treated area has to be gently washed once or twice per day and should be kept clean. A dressing is optional but highly suggested if the affected area is prone to trauma or clothes rub on it.
Once the blister will start to dry to a scab, petroleum jelly has to be applied and picking at the scab should be avoided. On average, the scab peels off between 5-10 days on the face and 3 weeks on the hand. A scab may persist on the lower leg for 3 months because that particular healing site is often slow.
After a standard freeze of the lesions including actinic keratoses, seborrheic keratoses, and viral warts, the skin may appear completely normal and not show any signs of the past lesion. A few treatment sessions may be needed to achieve these results.
The main concern associated with cryotherapy is secondary wound infection. However, this adverse side effect is extremely rare. Infection may result in increased swelling, pain, thick yellow blister fluid, and/or redness around the treated site. A dermatologist may prescribe topical antiseptics and/or oral antibiotics if adverse side effects occur.
Centre for Medical and Surgical Dermatology offers unique and personalized cryotherapy treatment options for each patient.
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