Destroy precancerous skin lesions (actinic keratoses or solar keratoses)
Rarely, cryotherapy may be used to treat some skin cancers. However, skin that is destroyed during cryotherapy cannot be examined under a microscope. A skin biopsy is needed if your health care provider wants to check the lesion for signs of cancer.
Cryotherapy risks include:
Blisters and ulcers, leading to pain and infection
Scarring, especially if the freezing was prolonged or deeper areas of the skin were affected
Changes in skin color (skin turns white)
After the Procedure
Cryotherapy works well for many patients. Some skin lesions, especially warts, may need to be treated more than once.
The treated area may look red afterwards. A blister will often form within a few hours. It may appear clear or have a red or purple color.
You may have a little pain for up to 3 days.
Most of the time, no special care is needed during healing. The area should be washed gently once or twice a day and kept clean. A bandage or dressing should only be needed if the area rubs against clothes or may be easily injured.
A scab forms and will usually peel away within 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the area treated.
Call your health care provide if:
There are signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or drainage
The skin lesion does not appear to be gone after it has healed
Beard JM, Osborn J. Common office procedures. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 28.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.