Cryotherapy for Warts
Cryotherapy involves freezing a wart using a
very cold substance (usually liquid nitrogen). Cryotherapy is a standard
warts and can be done in a doctor's office. The liquid
nitrogen application usually takes less than a minute. Your doctor may
pare the skin over a wart before applying liquid
nitrogen. Cryotherapy is painful. A numbing
local anesthetic is usually not necessary but may be
used in some cases. Your doctor applies the liquid nitrogen to the
wart using a probe or a cotton swab. Liquid nitrogen can also be sprayed
directly on the wart.
Most warts require 1 to 4 treatments, with 1 to 3 weeks
between each treatment.
What To Expect After Surgery
Pain from cryotherapy can last up to 3
days. Healing is generally quick (7 to 14 days) with little or no
Within hours after treatment, a blister may form.
If the blister breaks, clean the area to
prevent the spread of the wart virus. Avoid contact with the fluid, which may
contain the wart virus. The blister will dry up over the next few
days, and the wart may fall off.
Multiple treatments may be needed to get rid of the
Why It Is Done
Cryotherapy is usually used if
salicylic acid treatment has not eliminated a wart or if quick treatment is
desired. How Well It Works
Cryotherapy can destroy warts.
Research shows that cryotherapy is no more effective than salicylic
1, 2 Risks
If done carefully, cryotherapy poses little risk
If a wart is thick and requires extensive or repeated
freezing, nerves around the wart can be damaged, scarring may occur, and the
skin may take a long time to recover.
There is a small chance of
infection associated with cryotherapy. Some signs of infection include:
Increased pain, swelling, redness, tenderness,
or heat. Red streaks extending from the area. Discharge
of pus. Fever of
100°F (38°C) or higher with no
other cause. What To Think About
If you can tolerate moderate,
short-term pain, cryotherapy may be a reasonable treatment option for you.
Can be painful and expensive but usually does
not scar. Is most painful where the skin is thicker (palms and
soles). Often takes multiple treatments, especially for thick,
larger warts. Is quick and can be done in a doctor's office. Complete the surgery information form (PDF) to help you prepare for this surgery. (What is a PDF document?) Citations Gibbs S, Harvey I (2006). Local treatments for
cutaneous warts. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
(3). Oxford: Update Software. Luk NM, Tan YM (2007). Warts (non-genital), search
date November 2006. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence. Also available online:
By Healthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology Last Revised September 2, 2010