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
trim the wart with a small knife before applying liquid
- Cryotherapy is painful. A numbing
local anesthetic is usually not needed 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.
Cryotherapy can also be done at home using an over-the-counter product such as Compound W Freeze Off. These home cryotherapy kits use a mixture of dimethyl ether and propane rather than liquid nitrogen. This mixture is used to soak a foam applicator that is then applied to the wart. This product may be safe for warts on the hands or feet but not for genital warts. Follow all instructions carefully to avoid serious burns and permanent scarring.
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
Cryotherapy is usually used if
salicylic acid treatment has not eliminated a wart or if quick treatment is
Cryotherapy can destroy warts.
It gets rid of warts about half of the time.1
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,
- Red streaks extending from the area.
- Fever of
100°F (38°C) or higher with no
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
- Is most painful where the skin is thicker (palms and
- Often takes multiple treatments, especially for thick,
- Is quick and can be done in a doctor's office or at home.
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Habif TP, et al. (2011). Herpes simplex section of Viral infections. In Skin Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd ed., pp. 224–229. Edinburgh: Saunders.
|By: ||Healthwise Staff ||Last Revised: September 7, 2012|
|Medical Review: ||Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine|
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine