Cryotherapy (cryosurgery) destroys
genital warts by freezing them with liquid
- A doctor applies liquid nitrogen to and around
- First, the tissue is frozen with liquid nitrogen. Then,
the tissue is allowed to thaw. The tissue is frozen again, if needed. The time
of application varies by the doctor who applies the liquid nitrogen and the
size of the warts.
- The size and thickness of the warts determine
the number and length of freeze/thaw cycles. Up to three treatments may be
- You may have a mild to moderate burning sensation during the
- Genital warts in the
urethra or anus usually require the most treatments
because the warts may be inside the opening.
Cryotherapy is usually done in your doctor's office or
clinic. A magnifying instrument may be used to see the abnormal tissue
What To Expect After Treatment
Recovery time depends on the location
and number of warts removed. Healing usually occurs in 1 to 3 weeks. After
treatment, the following may occur:
- Irritation, soreness, or mild pain may occur.
- You may have swelling.
- You may
have dead tissue shed off.
- Sores or blisters may form.
Men and women
For men and women who have had
cryotherapy for external genital warts, call your doctor
for any of the following:
- A fever
- Bad-smelling or yellowish discharge, which may indicate an
- Continued pain
Avoid intercourse until the treated area heals and the
soreness is gone.
Be aware of the following after treatment
for vaginal or cervical warts:
- A watery vaginal discharge may occur for
about 1 to 3 weeks.
- Sanitary napkins should be used instead of
tampons for 2 to 3 weeks.
- Avoid sexual intercourse or douching
until the treated area heals, usually in 1 to 3 weeks.
Men treated for genital warts on the penis,
scrotum, or in the urethra should avoid sexual intercourse until the treated
area is healed and the soreness is gone. This is usually 1 to 3 weeks,
depending on the size of the area treated.
Why It Is Done
Cryotherapy may be done when genital
warts are visible, growing in a small area (especially near the anus), and
Cryotherapy usually is not used when genital warts are
How Well It Works
Experts agree that cryotherapy can
be helpful in removing genital warts.1 In some studies, cryotherapy
removed warts in up to 90 out of 100 cases.2 But warts may
grow back. More than one treatment may be needed.
of genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus
may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed.
There are few complications after cryotherapy.
Scarring is a slight risk.
The number and severity of side effects
depend on the number of freeze/thaw cycles used during cryotherapy and how
large an area was treated.
What To Think About
Cryotherapy for external genital
warts can be used safely during pregnancy.
Treating genital warts
may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in
the body in an inactive state after warts are removed. A person treated for
genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms may help
reduce the risk of HPV infection.
The benefits and effectiveness
of each type of treatment need to be compared with the side effects and cost.
Discuss this with your doctor.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Buck HW (2010). Warts (genital), search date December 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2005, reaffirmed 2009). Human papillomavirus. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 61. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 105(4): 905–918.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of
||June 21, 2012