COSMETIC DERMATOLOGY AND SKIN CARE FOR Plano, Frisco, and the Dallas Fortworth metroplex in Texas
What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy, also referred to as cryosurgery, uses liquid nitrogen, a very low-temperature liquid (freezing) , to destroy noncancerous (benign) and some cancerous (malignant) skin lesions. It is a common treatment option because of its low cost, ease of use, and effectiveness. When used by properly trained and experienced physicians, such as Dr. Wright, cryosurgery can remove a lesion with good cosmetic results.
Freezing skin lesions with liquid nitrogen is often a good way to treat growths in the epidermis, the outer living layer of skin. It is routine for warts, actinic keratoses, seborrheic keratoses, and skin tags. It does not treat things below the epidermis such as moles.
Living skin cells are about 78% water. By freezing them so severely and quickly, particular kinds of ice crystal structures form from the water inside the cells. These ice crystals disrupt the delicate internal membranes of those cells and kill them. Ice cubes and dry ice (-70°C) are not cold enough to accomplish this. Liquid nitrogen is unique.
What to Expect During Cryosurgery Treatment
For treatment, the area is frozen and kept solid for several seconds (depending on nature of lesion), then allowed to thaw and then the area is refrozen again. Liquid nitrogen application will feel like a strong biting pinch for about 3 seconds. The pain quickly fades and is much better within 15 minutes. As the skin thaws out, the chilled nerves will recover function at different rates. The frozen area may look like a mild hive for about 20 minutes and scratching should be avoided. This treatment may create the skin to blister and after a few days a crust will form. The crust will come off in about 10-14 days on the face and 1-2 months in other areas. Normal skin cells migrate in from the sides to heal the sore. The frozen area may heal to make a pink area, which usually returns to normal by about 2-4 months. A light freeze usually results in the skin healing completely, however longer freezes (for thicker sun spots) may result in a pale mark or scar.
In order to achieve excellent healing with minimal risk of scarring, Dr. Wright may recommend more than one treatment.
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Recovery & Maintaining Results from Cryotherapy Treatment
Usually, people heal well after Liquid Nitrogen treatment and quickly such as 7-14 days. You can do most things you want to during healing. Just be gentle. The main thing is to avoid infection. You may apply make-up gently and to remove it gently such a washing with a mild soap, like Cetaphil. You can hide the spots with make up for social events. You can swim in a chlorinated pool even starting the day of treatment. Avoid hot tubs for two weeks as they often contain gram-negative bacteria. Showering is preferable to bathtub bathing for the first week. When you get out of the shower, it is okay to use dry skin lotions.
If a blister forms you may cover it with a band-aid to protect it. If the blister is tense and sore or if you just plain don’t like it, Dr. Wright can withdraw the fluid for you using a sterile needle. This is optional, and it is okay not to drain smaller blisters. The normal new cells migrate in from the sides and cover the floor of the blister. This reestablishes the normal skin.
You will get the best cosmetic result if you leave the blister intact as long as possible. Do not break it or pierce it with needles or pins. The blister may be filled with clear fluid like water or with blood. Both of these are normal. The blister fluid should remain clear. If the fluid becomes discolored it may indicate and infection and an antibiotic may be required.
If you wish, you may use a topical over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment, Vitamin E cream, as long as you are not allergic to it. But these things should not be necessary.