Cryotherapy is a controlled and targeted destruction of diseased tissue by use of extremely low temperature produced by liquid gases. The most common agent used by doctors is liquid nitrogen which is extremely cold, boiling at minus 196° c. 

What conditions can be treated with cryotherapy? 

A wide variety of skin lesions can be treated with cryotherapy, but it is most commonly used to remove viral warts, seborrhoeic keratosis ( the ageing spots), actinic keratosis, acne, vascular lesions, joint pain, small cancers and other noncancerous growth over the skin. 

How does this procedure occur? 

Cryotherapy is done by using different methods, like CryoGun, CryoPen, Cryochamber, or simply by the cotton dip method, containing liquid nitrogen, which is applied to the skin Cryotherapy does not normally require a local anaesthetic. The frozen skin becomes white and takes one to two minutes to thaw to normal skin temperature. Your doctor may suggest that the process is repeated once the skin has thawed out. Over the succeeding few days, a scab will form, and this will take one to two weeks. Multiple sessions are required to remove the lesion.   

What are the side effects of this treatment? 

Immediate side effects:

  • Pain- cryotherapy is usually well-tolerated, but can sometimes be painful if a deep freeze has been necessary which can be manageable with Painkillers (such as paracetamol)
  • Swelling and redness - this is a normal immediate response to freezing the skin, and usually settles after two to three days;  there may induce prominent puffiness of the lower eyelids which settles within days.
  • Blistering- this is also a common consequence of cryotherapy and blisters settle after a few days as the scab forms.
  • Infection- uncommonly, an infection can occur, resulting in increased pain and the formation of pus.  

What is whole body cryotherapy? 

This is a newer technique in which the whole body is exposed to extremely cold dry air in an environmentally controlled room for short periods of time (typically between 2and 5 minutes). During these exposures, individuals wear minimal clothing, gloves, a woollen headband covering the ears, a nose and mouth mask, and dry shoes and socks to reduce the risk of cold-related injury. Although it was originally developed to treat chronic medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Its purported effects include decreased tissue temperature, reduction in inflammation, analgesia, and enhanced recovery following exercise.

What are the disadvantages of cryosurgery?

The major disadvantage of cryosurgery is the uncertainty surrounding its long-term effectiveness. While cryosurgery may be effective in treating tumours the physician can see by using imaging tests (tests that produce pictures of areas inside the body), it can miss microscopic cancer spread.