Cryotherapy is a non-surgical treatment involving the removal of skin lesions using liquid nitrogen to freeze the skin cells until they die. The freezing treatment normally involves 5-10 seconds of the liquid spray being applied with a break between treatment cycles. The duration and number of treatment cycles depend on the skin type and the nature of the problem.

Cryotherapy can be used to treat a wide variety of superficial benign lesions; however, freezing is best suited for treating:

+  Viral warts
+ Actinic keratosis (an area of sun-damaged skin found predominantly on sun-exposed parts of the body) 
+ Seborrheic keratosis and other benign lesions
+ Small skin cancers such as Bowen’s disease and basal cell carcinomas

Viral Warts

A viral wart is a common skin growth caused by an infection with HPV (human papillomavirus). These are very common in school-aged children, people with supressed immune systems and people with eczema; although they can appear at any age, on anyone. HPV is spread by direct contact with the skin or through autoinoculation. 

There are several types of viral warts, including the common wart (regularly found on fingers ), plantar warts (found on the sole of the  foot and toes), plane warts (found on face, hands and shins), filiform warts (found on the face ), and mucosal warts (found on lips and inside of cheeks). 

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis is a scaly spot found on sun-damaged skin. This is caused by abnormal skin cell development due to damage from ultraviolet rays. These spots are most commonly found on areas of the skin that are repeatedly exposed to the sun. Typical areas are on the backs of hands, top of feet, balding head,  face, ears, temples and forehead. 

Actinic Keratoses are usually   pink scaly patches, though may be white and  thicker . There is a small chance that this condition can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, and it is best to have this treated to be safe and  prevent progression .

Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis is the most common non-cancerous skin growth in older adults. It appears as a light tan, brown or black growth on face, chest or back areas. The growth will be slightly raised up off the skin and have a scaly, crusty or waxy texture. They are normally round or oval shaped. 

Seborrheic keratosis does not develop into skin cancer, and most remain asymptomatic. You may want to have them removed for cosmetic reasons, or if they are uncomfortable and  causing symptoms such as  by catching on clothing.

Bowen’s Disease

Bowen’s disease is a form of skin cancer confined within the superficial layers of skin .  Typically it is found as a red coloured plaque which can be crusty or scaly on sun exposed areas . It is most prevalent in people age 60+, although can be found in some rare cases at age 30+. 

It  is a form of squamous cell carcinoma and freezing is an effective treatment method for it. 

Basal Cell Carcinomas

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, with more than 4 million cases reported in the UK every year. The abnormal cells  arise in the basal cells of the skin and can appear as pink slightly scaly patches or skin coloured pearly papules which may ulcerate and  don’t heal. 

This type of skin cancer has a high cure rate and doesn’t spread to other areas of the body. However, if they are left untreated, they grow slowly and cause damage to adjacent skin structures causing  disfigurement. They also grow slowly  spreading locally into blood vessels and nerves.  

Cryotherapy is very quick and straightforward procedure performed as an outpatient treatment at the initial appointment  and involves liquid nitrogen applied to the skin with a spray gun , with pinpoint accuracy. The procedure is very quick, depending on the thickness and size of the lesion. There is a slight burning sensation analogous to freezer-burn , during the procedure, but this  stops once the treatment has ended. The frozen skin becomes white and takes one to two minutes to thaw to normal skin temperature - your doctor may repeat the freeze once the skin has thawed if stronger treatment is required for that particular lesion.

Over the days following treatment, a scab will form which will take a couple of weeks to fall off – this process cannot be hurried.  Depending on the response of the tissue treated, follow up sessions may be required.

All Cryotherapy treatments at the Cadogan Clinic are carried out by a Dermatologist as this is a medical treatment which needs to be performed by an expert to avoid complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cryotherapy is medical non-surgical treatment involving the removal of skin lesions via a freezing method using an agent such as liquid nitrogen.

Depending on the nature of your lesion, cryotherapy may be the most effective least invasive treatment for you - liquid nitrogen can be used to treat a wide variety of superficial benign lesions, however, freezing is best suited for removing viral warts, actinic keratosis (an area of sun-damaged skin found predominantly on sun-exposed parts of the body), seborrheic keratosis and other benign lesions.

Cryotherapy is very quick and straightforward procedure performed as an outpatient treatment and involves liquid nitrogen applied to the skin with a spray gun or cotton bud.  The procedure is very quick, depending on the thickness and size of the lesion. The frozen skin becomes white and takes one to two minutes to thaw to normal skin temperature - your doctor may suggest this is repeated once the skin has thawed out.  Over the days following treatment, a scab will form, this will take a couple of weeks to fall off – this process cannot be hurried.  Depending on the response of the tissue treated, follow up sessions may be required.

Cryotherapy is usually a well-tolerated treatment, but can sometimes cause discomfort if a deep freeze is necessary.  This discomfort can occur during and after the treatment and may require painkillers for the first 24 hours to relieve this, or, you may opt to have a local anaesthetic applied beforehand.  Redness and blistering may occur, and it's important to take care of the wound to avoid infection – you would be advised by your consultant exactly how best to do this -

It is important to keep the area as dry as possible and a dressing or plaster may be applied if the treated area is likely to be knocked or rubbed by clothing. It is also crucial not to pick the scab as this may cause scarring.  

At the Cadogan clinic, Cryotherapy treatments are dependent on the number of lesions/size of the area to be treated and typically start from £90. Book a consultation today to find out the cost for your desired results.

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